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Pfizer’s new pill to prevent COVID-19 is not the same as ivermectin

October 1, 2021 GMT

CLAIM: Pfizer’s new pill to treat COVID-19 is just ivermectin repackaged.

AP’S ASSESSMENT: False. Ivermectin and the drug being tested to treat COVID-19 are structurally different. As one infectious disease expert said, “The only way they are alike is that they are both pills.”

THE FACTS: After news broke that Pfizer had reached a new phase of testing on its antiviral drug to prevent COVID-19, social media posts began circulating suggesting that it was nothing more than ivermectin repackaged.

Ivermectin, an inexpensive drug used to kill parasites, has been falsely touted as a treatment for COVID-19. The FDA and medical experts warn against the use of ivermectin to treat the disease. Large studies testing the drug against COVID-19 are ongoing.

Social media users have coined the term “Pfizermectin” in their posts claiming that ivermectin and Pfizer’s new oral antiviral, PF-07321332, are the same drug. According to Pfizer, the drug is being tested in combination with the HIV drug ritonavir in a study on 2,660 people.

There is no relationship at all between the two drugs, said Dr. William A Petri, professor of infectious diseases at the University of Virginia.

“The only way they are alike is that they are both pills,” Petri said.

Dr. Kevin J. Downes, assistant professor of pediatrics at the Perelman School of Medicine of the University of Pennsylvania, agreed, “They are dramatically different molecules. The drugs are different in their structure and their molecular size.”

The drug being studied by Pfizer acts as a protease inhibitor, which prevents a virus from replicating. Other protease inhibitor drugs helped revolutionize the treatment of HIV.

Several posts circulating online wrongly suggest that the pills are the same because ivermectin also acts like a protease inhibitor and keeps the virus from replicating. Ivermectin continues to be studied in relation to COVID-19, however, it has yet to be proven that it can treat COVID-19.

Images of the structure of Pfizer’s new pill and ivermectin can be found online and do not show similarities like the posts describe.

Ivermectin binds to glutamate-gated chloride channels and is used to treat parasite infections, said Joseph Glajch, a consultant in pharmaceutical and analytical chemistry.

“These two are so far apart,” he said. “If you look at how they interact with the body..., they don’t even go to the same pathways or receptors.”

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This is part of AP’s effort to address widely shared misinformation, including work with outside companies and organizations to add factual context to misleading content that is circulating online. Learn more about fact-checking at AP.