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Controversy flares over ivermectin for COVID-19


 

Some physicians say they won’t prescribe it

Some physicians say they won’t be recommending it to their COVID-19 patients.

Amesh Adalja, MD, an infectious disease expert and senior scholar at the Johns Hopkins University Center for Health Security in Baltimore,said in an interview that the NIH update hasn’t changed his mind and he isn’t prescribing it for his patients.

He said although “there’s enough of a signal” that he would like to see more data, “we haven’t seen anything in terms of a really robust study.”

He noted that the Infectious Diseases Society of America has 15 recommendations for COVID-19 treatment “and not one of them has to do with ivermectin.”

He added, “It’s not enough to see if it works, but we need to see who it works in and when it works in them.”

He also acknowledged that “some prominent physicians” are recommending it.

Among them is Paul Marik, MD, endowed professor of medicine and chief of pulmonary and critical care medicine at Eastern Virginia Medical School in Norfolk. A cofounder of FLCCC, Dr. Marik has championed ivermectin and developed a protocol for its use to prevent and treat COVID-19.

The data surrounding ivermectin have met with hope, criticism, and warnings.

Australian researchers published a study ahead of print in Antiviral Research that found ivermectin inhibited the replication of SARS-CoV-2 in a laboratory setting.

The study concluded that the drug resulted post infection in a 5,000-fold reduction in viral RNA at 48 hours. After that study, however, the FDA in April warned consumers not to self-medicate with ivermectin products intended for animals.

The NIH acknowledged that several randomized trials and retrospective studies of ivermectin use in patients with COVID-19 have now been published in peer-reviewed journals or on preprint servers.

“Some clinical studies showed no benefits or worsening of disease after ivermectin use, whereas others reported shorter time to resolution of disease manifestations attributed to COVID-19, greater reduction in inflammatory markers, shorter time to viral clearance, or lower mortality rates in patients who received ivermectin than in patients who received comparator drugs or placebo,” the NIH guidance reads.

The NIH acknowledges limitations: the studies have been small; doses of ivermectin have varied; some patients were taking other medications at the same time (including doxycycline, hydroxychloroquine, azithromycin, zinc, and corticosteroids, which may be potential confounders); and patients’ severity of COVID was not always clearly described in the studies.

Nasia Safdar, MD, medical director of infection prevention at the University of Wisconsin Hospital in Madison, told this news organization she agrees more research is needed before ivermectin is recommended by regulatory bodies for COVID-19.

That said, Dr. Safdar added, “in individual circumstances if a physician is confronted with a patient in dire straits and you’re not sure what to do, might you consider it? I think after a discussion with the patient, perhaps, but the level of evidence certainly doesn’t rise to the level of a policy.”

A downside of recommending a treatment without conclusive data, even if harm isn’t the primary concern, she said, is that supplies could dwindle for its intended use in other diseases. Also, premature approval can limit the robust research needed to see not only whether it works better for prevention or treatment, but also if it’s effective depending on patient populations and the severity of COVID-19.

Dr. Adalja and Dr. Safdar have disclosed no relevant financial relationships.

A version of this article first appeared on Medscape.com.

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