Ivermectin explained: Why the so-called 'horse drug' has emerged in COVID fight

Ivermectin explained: Why the so-called 'horse drug' has emerged in COVID fight

An anti-parasite drug called ivermectin has emerged as the latest flashpoint in the often bitter public debate about COVID-19 precautions and vaccines.

Its proponents claim the drug is effective in combating COVID-19 infections, although there is little scientific data to back up the claims.

Critics of ivermectin cite the lack of evidence, cases in which versions of the drug have instead caused harm, and the effect interest in the drug has on vaccination efforts.

Many on the Left have questioned the promotion of any COVID-19 therapeutic, even ones that have proven effective against the virus, such as monoclonal antibody drugs, because they argue unvaccinated people will avoid getting vaccinated if they mistakenly believe COVID-19 has a cure.


For example, Florida's 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 is what you need to know about ivermectin.

What is it?

Ivermectin is a drug used to treat infections caused by parasites, such as river blindness and intestinal problems caused by roundworms.

Scientists who developed ivermectin won the 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 recommends refugees coming to the United States from most parts of the world take ivermectin as a “presumptive therapy.”

Is it a horse drug?

Versions of ivermectin are also used to deworm livestock, which has caused confusion and fueled political commentary about the use of the drug.

Inspired by the growing public discussion of ivermectin, some people have attempted to purchase the animal version of it, which is more readily available than the type prescribed by doctors to humans.

The increased interest prompted one feed store in Las Vegas to demand that anyone buying the drug in recent days provide a photograph of their horse to cut down on people seeking ivermectin as a COVID-19 treatment.

In Oklahoma, some hospitals have reported an influx of patients sickened by taking doses of ivermectin formulated for full-grown horses.

But although many media outlets and commentators have characterized ivermectin as primarily a horse drug, and partisans on social media have mocked those expressing interest in it as a COVID-19 treatment, ivermectin is also a widely used human medicine. Doctors in the U.S. 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 for treating COVID-19.

FDA officials have issued particularly strong warnings about the dangers of using animal versions of ivermectin to combat the virus because the drugs are formulated differently than those for humans and often involve much higher doses.

However, the agency does acknowledge that scientists are studying the use of ivermectin in COVID-19 cases.

“The FDA has not reviewed data to support use of ivermectin in COVID-19 patients to treat or to prevent COVID-19; however, some initial research is underway,” the FDA wrote in a warning against taking the drug.

Who has promoted it?

Popular podcast host Joe Rogan stirred 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 “great” after taking ivermectin and monoclonal antibodies to combat his COVID-19 symptoms.

The host faced ridicule for highlighting the drug, as many critics have accused those who embrace it of being anti-vaccination. Rogan has suggested in the past that healthy, younger people don’t need a vaccine.

A mayor in Alaska also weathered criticism after encouraging the study of ivermectin in COVID-19 patients. Charlie Pierce, mayor of Kenai Peninsula Borough, suggested doctors review the drug for the alternative use because it is relatively inexpensive.

Only a handful of doctors have openly promoted the drug, but they have been derided as outliers in a medical community that largely advises patients to stay away from ivermectin except for its approved uses.

Does it work?

There is no reliable evidence to suggest ivermectin is effective against COVID-19, although scientists have performed several studies to date.

A review of data from 15 ivermectin trials found that the drug did reduce deaths among COVID-19 patients who took it, according to an analysis published this month in the American Journal of Therapeutics.

“Moderate-certainty evidence finds that large reductions in COVID-19 deaths are possible using ivermectin,” the seven scientists who authored the analysis wrote in conclusion. “Using ivermectin early in the clinical course may reduce numbers progressing to severe disease.”


The World Health Organization advised in March that scientists can use ivermectin to treat COVID-19 in clinical trials as research into the drug progresses.

WHO officials wrote that the evidence so far suggesting ivermectin reduces COVID-19 hospitalizations and deaths is “very low certainty” because the trials have been small. In March, the number of patients who had enrolled in ivermectin trials reviewed by WHO was 2,407.

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Tags: News, Coronavirus, CDC, Vaccination, Health

Original Author: Sarah Westwood

Original Location: Ivermectin explained: Why the so-called 'horse drug' has emerged in COVID fight