Horse dewormer ivermectin still doesn’t work for COVID — get the vaccine

I thought I had finished writing about the horse dewormer ivermectin, but a new large study shows that it still doesn’t do anything for COVID-19. Unless you just happen to have a parasitic infection along with COVID-19, sure, it could help there.

Well, let’s take a look at this new study, just to the final nail in the coffin for using ivermectin to treat COVID-19. Who am I kidding?

dHumans, stay away from our dewormer. Photo by Raphael Wicker on Unsplash

What is ivermectin?

Let me start with ivermectin itself.  It is an antiparasitic drug. It was discovered in 1975, and its first uses were in veterinary medicine to prevent and treat heartworm and acariasis. It was approved for human use in 1987 — it is used to treat infestations including head licescabiesriver blindnessstrongyloidiasistrichuriasisascariasis, and lymphatic filariasis.

William Campbell and Satoshi Ōmura won the 2015 Nobel Prize in Physiology or Medicine for its discovery and applications. The Nobel Prize was for the discoverers of such an important medicine — it is not given for the drug itself, despite wild claims on the internet.

As you will notice, there are no claims that ivermectin has any effect on viruses, including SARS-CoV-2 which causes COVID-19. The myth that ivermectin had some effect on SARS-CoV-2 was the result of an in vitro study. Of course, less than 1% of drugs that work in vitro ever end up with any clinical usefulness.

Then a series of very badly designed trials, with serious methodological issues, tried to show that the ivermectin worked to treat COVID-19, but most scientists rejected those claims. However, anti-vaxxers being their usual anti-science selves, decided that ivermectin was all that was needed, not vaccines.

So, you’re wondering why we call it a “horse dewormer.” It’s because delusional people who thought it treated COVID-19 bought up the horse version of ivermectin, because they would need to see an actual doctor for a prescription for the human version, and they knew 99.9% of physicians would have laughed at them.

Really humans, stay away from my meds. Photo by Aurélien Faux on Unsplash

The new ivermectin and COVID-19 paper

According to a new paper (to be published soon) by Edward Mills, a professor of health sciences at McMaster University in Hamilton, Ontario, Canada, the horse dewormer ivermectin was no better than a placebo at preventing hospitalizations in COVID-19 patients. This trial, which included nearly 1,400 Covid-19 patients at risk of severe disease, is the largest to show that those who received ivermectin as a treatment for COVID-19 didn’t fare better than those who received a placebo.

Dr. Mills and colleagues examined 1,358 adults who visited one of 12 clinics in the Minas Gerais region of Brazil with COVID-19-19 symptoms. The patients all had a positive rapid test for SARS-CoV-2 and were at high risk of having a severe case for reasons including a history of diabetes, hypertension, cardiovascular disease, or lung disease.

In the randomized, double-blind clinical trial, the researchers gave half of the patients a course of ivermectin pills for three days while the other half received a placebo. They tracked whether the patients were hospitalized within 28 days of receiving ivermectin or the placebo. The clinical endpoints of the study were whether patients on ivermectin cleared the virus from their bodies faster than those who received a placebo, whether their symptoms resolved sooner, whether they were in the hospital or on ventilators for less time and whether there was any difference in the death rates for the two groups.

Mills and colleagues analyzed the data in three different ways to make certain that they were thorough. They looked at data from all patients; then analyzed data from patients who received ivermectin or a placebo 24 hours before they were hospitalized; and in a third review, looked at data from patients who said they had adhered strictly to their dosing schedule. In each scenario, they found ivermectin did not reduce the risk of hospitalization.

Dr. Mills presented the results of the peer-reviewed study at a forum sponsored by the National Institutes of Health. He told The Wall Street Journal that:

There was no indication that ivermectin is clinically useful.

Dr. Peter Hotez, dean of the National School of Tropical Medicine at Baylor College of Medicine, who reviewed the findings and told The Wall Street Journal:

This is the first large, prospective study that should really help put to rest ivermectin and not give any credibility to the use of it for Covid-19.

I hope so, but we all know better.

So, we have more data added to a fairly large body of evidence that ivermectin is ineffective in treating COVID-19. And we also know that taking large doses of the drug is dangerous, according to the FDA. 

There are actual FDA-approved drugs that can treat COVID-19 successfully — Merck’s molnupiravir and Pfizer’s Paxlovid. And researchers, including Dr. Mills, are studying other drugs with an anti-viral activity that might be useful in treating COVID-19, but those will only be available once we know that they actually work in large clinical trials.

Summary

This is simple — ivermectin is useless in treating, preventing, or reducing symptoms of COVID-19. Let the horses have their dewormer, there are other drugs that are actually effective against COVID-19.


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The Original Skeptical Raptor
Chief Executive Officer at SkepticalRaptor
Lifetime lover of science, especially biomedical research. Spent years in academics, business development, research, and traveling the world shilling for Big Pharma. I love sports, mostly college basketball and football, hockey, and baseball. I enjoy great food and intelligent conversation. And a delicious morning coffee!