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Ivermectin Doesn’t Work: Why Is It Part of India’s COVID Protocol?

Why are Goa & Uttarakhand using Ivermectin for COVID treatment when developers themselves have warned against it?

Updated
India
3 min read
Why are health authorities in India still recommending Ivermectin?
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The Goa and Uttarakhand governments have announced that they will be giving anti-parasite drug Ivermectin to everyone over the age of 18 irrespective of their COVID status, as a prophylaxis (preventive) treatment, effective immediately.

In a previous article, FIT detailed why Ivermectin should not be used as a prophylactic to prevent COVID.

Even at the time, all major health authorities of the world, including the World Health Organization (WHO), the US Food and Drug Administration (FDA), and the European Medicines Agency (EMA) had discouraged the use of Ivermectin for the treatment of COVID.

In spite of this, the demand for Ivermectin in India among COVID patients continues to soar (along with other ‘wonder drugs’ like Remdesivir, and Hydroxychloroquine).

On Monday, 10 May, Goa Health Minister Vishwanath Rane took to Twitter to make the announcement, saying the decision was based on a study conducted by "expert panels from the UK, Italy, Spain and Japan, that found a large, statistically significant reduction in mortality, time to recovery, and viral clearance in COVID-19 patients treated with Ivermectin."

But this decision has not gone down well with health experts who assert that there is no evidence proving the safety and efficacy of Ivermectin in COVID management.

What is Ivermectin?

First, let's back track a bit.

Ivermectin is a deworming drug used to treat and prevent parasites in animals, particularly in horses.

In humans, it is used to treat certain intestinal and topical parasitic worms and skin conditions.

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How did this deworming drug come to be used for the treatment of COVID?

With no other effective treatment available, Ivermectin became one of the many experimental drugs prescribed around the world by doctors based on some anecdotal evidence to help alleviate severe symptoms of COVID.

This in vitro study conducted in Australia in June 2020 was the first of its kind to spark an interest in the drug as a possible treatment for COVID, reported The Washington Post.

But with time and analysis, Ivermectin's effectiveness in treating or preventing COVID was debunked, and in the context of COVID, its use has been discouraged since.

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However, Ivermectin remains one of the more sought after COVID drugs, and the situation is only made worse by the government's COVID management guidelines that continue to list it as an option for treatment of mild COVID on days 3-5.

'Ivermectin Doesn't Help in COVID Management'

Doctors, scientists and health authorities have been reiterating this for months now.

The Goa government's prophylaxis treatment plan, however, has once again prompted them to come forward and clear the air.

Dr Soumya Swaminathan, Chief Scientist, World Health Organization, responded on Twitter, saying the WHO recommends against the use of Ivermectin for COVID.

In March of 2021, the WHO had previously already said that the current evidence on the use of Ivermectin to treat COVID-19 patients is inconclusive and recommended that the drug only be used within clinical trials.

Dr Swaminathan's tweet was followed by a similar warnings from epidemiologist and public health and policy expert, Dr Chandrakant Lahariya.

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Furthermore, amid claims of the 'wonder drug' early in 2021, Merck – Ivermectin's parent company – themselves released a statement in February, warning against the use of the drug for treating COVID.

In its statement, Merck emphasises that based on their analysis, there is,

  • No scientific basis for the potential therapeutic effect of Ivermectin against COVID-19 from pre-clinical studies
  • No meaningful evidence for a clinical activity or clinical efficacy in patients with COVID-19 disease
  • A concerning lack of safety data in the majority of studies

The FDA also warns that Ivermectin in large doses can be dangerous, causing anything from nausea, dizziness, and an allergic reaction to seizures, coma, and even death.

(This story was first published in FIT and has been republished with permission.)

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