An orally-administered drug used to treat parasitic infections – ivermectin – approved by the Goa government has been red-flagged by the World Health Organisation (WHO) for COVID treatment.
“Safety and efficacy are important when using any drug for a new indication. WHO recommends against use of ‘ivermectin’ for COVID-19 except within clinical trials,” WHO’s chief scientist Dr Soumya Swaminathan tweeted.
German healthcare and life sciences giant Merck has also issued a similar warning, whose statement Dr Swaminathan attached to her tweet. Merck has said its scientists continue to “carefully examine findings of all available and emerging studies of ‘ivermectin’ for COVID treatment”.
Merck said: “We do not believe the data available support the safety and efficacy of ‘ivermectin’ beyond the doses and populations indicated in the regulatory agency-approved prescribing information”.
This is the second WHO warning against the drug in the past two months. In March it reported that there is “very low certainty of evidence of the drug’s effect on mortality or hospital admission”.
The WHO had said: “We currently lack persuasive evidence of a mechanism of action for ‘ivermectin’ in COVID-19, and any observed clinical benefit would be unexplained.”
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On Monday (May 10) Goa approved the use of ‘ivermectin’ as preventive treatment for all adults against COVID. Goa Health Minister Vishwajit P Rane said the state’s green-lighting of the drug was after expert panels from the UK, Italy, Spain and Japan found a “statistically significant reduction in mortality, time to recovery, and viral clearance in COVID patients treated with ivermectin”.
Rane said the treatment with 12 mg for five days would be available for everyone over 18.
The US’ Food and Drug Administration has said that the drug is not approved for COVID treatment.
However, a review of available data published in the May-June issue of the American Journal of Therapeutics claims the drug can help.
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“We conducted the most comprehensive review of the available data on ivermectin,” said Pierre Kory, president and Chief Medical Officer of the Front Line COVID-19 Critical Care Alliance (FLCCC), a group of medical and scientific experts that led the study.
The authors have claimed a large and statistically significant reduction in mortality, time to recovery, and viral clearance in COVID-19 patients treated with ‘ivermectin’.