An antiparasitic drug called ivermectin has emerged as the latest hotspot in the often bitter public debate over COVID-19 precautions and vaccines.
Its proponents claim that the drug is effective in fighting COVID-19 infections, although there is little scientific data to back up the claims.
Critics of ivermectin cite the lack of evidence, cases where versions of the drug have instead caused damage, and the effect that interest in the drug has on vaccination efforts.
Many on the left have questioned the advertising of any covid-19 therapy, even those that have been shown to be effective against the virus, such as monoclonal antibody drugs, because they claim that unvaccinated people will avoid being vaccinated if they mistakenly believe that COVID-19 has a cure.
For example, Florida Republican Gov. Ron DeSantis has taken heat from liberal critics who accuse him of undermining vaccination efforts with his recent focus on the availability of COVID-fighting drugs.
Here’s what you need to know about ivermectin.
What is it?
Ivermectin is one medicine used to treat infections caused by parasites, such as river blindness and intestinal problems caused by roundworms.
Researchers who developed ivermectin won Nobel Prize in physiology and medicine in 2015, when the foundation said the drug “revolutionized therapy for patients suffering from devastating parasitic diseases.”
In fact, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention recommend Refugees coming to the United States from most parts of the world take ivermectin as a “presumed therapy.”
Is it a horse substance?
Versions of ivermectin are also used to worm domestic animals, which has caused confusion and given rise to political comment on the use of the drug.
Inspired by the growing public discussion about ivermectin, some people have tried to buy the animal version of it, which is more readily available than the type that doctors have prescribed for humans.
The increased interest led a feed store in Las Vegas to demand that someone buy the drug in recent days give a photograph of their horse to cut down on people seeking ivermectin as a COVID-19 treatment.
In Oklahoma, there are some hospitals reported an influx of patients who became ill from taking doses of ivermectin formulated for adult horses.
But even though many media and commentators have characterized ivermectin as primarily an equine drug, and partisans on social media have teased those who express interest in it as a COVID-19 treatment, ivermectin is also a widely used human medicine. Doctors in the United States write tens of thousands of prescriptions for it every year.
What does the FDA say?
The Food and Drug Administration has warned the public against using ivermectin to treat COVID-19.
FDA officials have issued particularly strong warnings about the dangers of using animal versions of ivermectin to fight the virus because the drugs are formulated differently than those for humans and often involve much higher doses.
However, the agency acknowledges that researchers are studying the use of ivermectin in COVID-19 cases.
“The FDA has not reviewed data to support the use of ivermectin in COVID-19 patients for the treatment or prevention of COVID-19; however, some preliminary investigations are underway, ”the FDA wrote in one warning against taking the drug.
Who promoted it?
The popular podcast host Joe Rogan sparked debate about the drug when he revealed this week that he took ivermectin among other drugs to treat COVID-19 after testing positive for the virus.
Rogan said he felt “amazing” after taking ivermectin and monoclonal antibodies to fight his COVID-19 symptoms.
The host was ridiculed for highlighting the drug, as many critics have accused those who embrace it of being anti-vaccination. Rogan has previously suggested that healthy, younger people do not need a vaccine.
An Alaska mayor also weathered criticism after encourage the study of ivermectin in COVID-19 patients. Charlie Pierce, mayor of the Kenai Peninsula Borough, suggested doctors review the drug for alternative use because it is relatively inexpensive.
Only a handful of doctors have openly promoted the drug, but they have been mocked as extreme in a medical community that largely advises patients to stay away from ivermectin other than its approved uses.
Does it work?
There is no reliable evidence that ivermectin is effective against COVID-19, although researchers to date have conducted several studies.
A review of data from 15 ivermectin trials showed that the drug reduced deaths among COVID-19 patients taking it, according to a analysis published this month in the American Journal of Therapeutics.
“Evidence of moderate safety finds that large reductions in deaths from COVID-19 are possible with the help of ivermectin,” the seven researchers who authored the analysis concluded. “Use of ivermectin early in the clinical course may reduce the number that progress to serious illness.”
World Health Organization advised in March that researchers may use ivermectin to treat COVID-19 in clinical trials as research into the drug progresses.
WHO officials wrote that evidence so far suggests that ivermectin reduces COVID-19 hospitalizations and deaths are “very low safety” because trials have been small. In March, the number of patients enrolled in ivermectin trials reviewed by the WHO was 2,407.
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Original author: Sarah Westwood
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