The FDA didn’t reverse course. Ivermectin is still not approved as a COVID-19 treatment.

Maria Bartiromo

Statement: “The FDA is now saying that it’s OK to take ivermectin if you have COVID.”

Maria Bartiromo
Maria Bartiromo

Conservative pundits, politicians and social media users are claiming that the U.S. Food and Drug Administration recently reversed its guidance on the use of ivermectin as a treatment for COVID-19.

"We learned this morning that the FDA is now saying that it’s OK to take ivermectin if you have COVID," said Fox Business host Maria Bartiromo on an Aug. 11 "Mornings with Maria" segment with Sen. Ron Johnson, R-Wis.

In response, Johnson pushed baseless conspiracy theories about COVID-19, claiming the pandemic was "preplanned" by unnamed elites. After the segment, Johnson posted on X, formerly Twitter: "Now the FDA quietly approves ivermectin’s use? What’s going on?"

PolitiFact reached out to Bartiromo for comment but did not receive a reply before publication.

The Bartiromo-Johnson exchange prompted misleading claims about the FDA’s ivermectin guidance to go viral on social media.

Conservative commentator Charlie Kirk shared the Fox Business clip on X and said, "The FDA has now endorsed treating COVID with Ivermectin!"

But the claims misrepresent an FDA attorney’s recent remarks about ivermectin.

The agency has not changed its guidance on the drug. A spokesperson told PolitiFact that the FDA has not authorized or approved ivermectin for use in preventing or treating COVID-19.

The ivermectin debate has persisted since the start of the pandemic, but there’s no conclusive evidence that the drug is effective in treating COVID-19. And the FDA says that in large doses, it can be dangerous.

The federal agency has approved the use of ivermectin to treat humans with certain parasitic infections, such as pediculosis caused by head or body lice, or skin conditions, such as rosacea. The FDA urges people to take ivermectin only as prescribed by a health care provider.

The claims follow recent testimony in a federal court case involving the FDA and ivermectin proponents.

In June 2022, three doctors who support using ivermectin to treat COVID-19 filed a federal lawsuit in Texas, claiming the FDA exceeded its authority and violated the Administrative Procedure Act, which governs federal agencies’ process of developing and issuing regulations, by interfering with their practice of medicine.

A judge at the Texas district court dismissed the case in December 2022, and the plaintiffs appealed to the New Orleans-based 5th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals. A panel of three judges heard oral arguments Aug. 8.

Jared Kelson, the plaintiffs’ attorney, argued the FDA lacks the authority to influence or interfere with how physicians prescribe ivermectin, even if it is for purposes different than what the FDA has approved.

Ashley Cheung Honold, a Justice Department attorney representing the FDA, argued the agency has the authority to provide guidance on drugs and convey that information to the public, and the FDA was doing so with its statements on ivermectin. Honold said these statements were not regulations and carry no legal consequences.

When the FDA approves a medication, it means the drug is safe and effective for its intended use, according to the agency’s website.

Honold was not saying that the FDA recommends using ivermectin to treat COVID-19; she was arguing that the agency’s guidelines about how to use ivermectin do not prevent doctors from prescribing the drug off-label, or for different uses than what the FDA has approved.

Here is Honold’s full quote, which is about 22 minutes into the oral arguments: "Your Honor, the FDA has multiple overlapping sources of authority that I'm happy to walk through that gives the FDA authority to convey information to the public, but here the FDA is not regulating the off-label use of drugs. These statements are not regulations, they have no legal consequences.

"They don't prohibit doctors from prescribing ivermectin to treat COVID or for any other purpose."

Our ruling

Bartiromo claimed that "the FDA is now saying that it’s OK to take ivermectin if you have COVID."

Bartiromo and social media users took out-of-context remarks made during federal court proceedings involving the FDA. The attorney representing the FDA said the agency’s ivermectin guidelines do not prevent doctors from prescribing the drug off-label, or for uses different from what the FDA has approved.

The attorney did not say ivermectin is approved by the FDA as a treatment for COVID-19.

The FDA has not changed its guidance on ivermectin. The agency has not authorized the drug for use in treating or preventing COVID-19.

We rate this claim False.

This article originally appeared on Austin American-Statesman: PolitiFact: FDA has not approved Ivermectin as a COVID-19 treatment