Feb. 18 (UPI) – Treatment with the dewormer drug ivermectin failed to prevent patients with mild to moderate COVID-19 from progressing to serious illness, a study published Friday by JAMA Internal Medicine found.
Of 241 patients in the study with mild to moderate symptoms treated with the medication, 52, or 22% developed severe COVID-19, the data showed.
Meanwhile, 43 of 249 patients, or 17%, who received “standard” treatment, including corticosteroids and, in a handful of cases, other experimental drugs, progressed to serious illness from the virus, the researchers said.
“Essentially, our study findings have dismissed the notion of ivermectin being a ‘miracle drug’ against COVID-19,” study co-author Dr. Steven Chee Loon Lim told UPI in an email.
“People infected with COVID-19 should not resort to self-medication with ivermectin, which does not reduce their risk of deterioration to severe disease,” said Lim, an infectious diseases physician at the Raja Permaisuri Bainun Hospital in Perak, Malaysia.
In addition, study participants treated with ivermectin reported more side effects than those given other drugs, Lim said.
This “raises concerns about the widespread use of this drug,” he said.
Ivermectin has been touted by celebrities and others as a potential treatment for COVID-19 despite a lack of scientific evidence supporting its use.
As a result, patients sickened with the virus have requested the drug over the objections of healthcare professionals.
Although ivermectin does have potential uses – for the treatment of river blindness and West Nile virus – COVID-19 does not appear to be one of them, Lim said.
This study compared the safety and effectiveness of the drug to standard care in 480 Malaysian patients who had mild to moderate COVID-19 symptoms before starting treatment, he and his colleagues said.
Two percent of the patients treated with ivermectin needed mechanical ventilation to maintain breathing, compared with 4% in the standard care group, the data showed.
Just over 2% of those given the anti-parasitic medication were admitted to the hospital intensive care unit compared with 3% of patients who received standard care, the researchers said.
In addition, 14 of the ivermectin patients developed severe diarrhea and four suffered potentially life-threatening kidney damage, the researchers said.
“Despite its early promise of efficacy in COVID-19 treatment, large and well-designed randomized clinical trials, including ours, have consistently shown that ivermectin offered little or no significant clinical benefits,” Lim said.
“I believe the findings in our study will likely ‘close the door’ on the use of ivermectin as a treatment for COVID-19,” he said.