Ivermectin is no longer in COVID-19 treatment kits in Mexico
CLAIM: The Mexican government is giving away free ivermectin in a COVID-19 medical kit.
AP’S ASSESSMENT: Missing context. While the government was until this month providing ivermectin in COVID-19 medical kits, officials confirmed to The Associated Press that the anti-parasitic drug is no longer included in the packet.
THE FACTS: Posts circulating on social media this week claim that ivermectin, a drug used to treat parasitic infections, is being distributed in COVID-19 medical treatment kits in Mexico.
Some of the posts on Twitter include a photo of a COVID-19 kit supplied by the Mexican Social Security Institute – IMSS – a federal agency overseeing the largest public hospitals network in the country.
“This is the Ivermectin Kit the Mexican Government is giving its Citizens for Free,” the post reads. It was retweeted over 19,000 times and received over 50,000 likes on Twitter.
Up until Jan. 4, 2022, that information was correct. But since then the government has stopped distribution of ivermectin in the kits given to people who tested positive for COVID-19, the IMSS’ Department of Health Services told The AP in a statement.
Health officials continue to evaluate evidence around the use of ivermectin against COVID-19, said Ruy López, head of the federal National Center of Preventive Programs and Disease Control, at a Jan. 9, 2021, press conference.
“As it is done with many other medicines that have been discussed, we evaluate the evidence,” he said.
Speaking at the press conference, Zoé Robledo, head of the IMSS, said ivermectin was not given to every patient diagnosed with COVID-19.
“I insist, the packet doesn’t mean that all of the ambulatory patients are getting ivermectin, being prescribed ivermectin. The kits or the packets that are being sent contain other more important things: the guidance of care, the oximeter and above all there is constant communication between the medics and patients about what they need to do,” Robledo said.
In the statement sent to the AP, the IMSS said that ivermectin was dropped from the packets because of information contained in studies released this month by the World Health Organization and The National Institute for Health and Care Excellence in the United Kingdom.
A photo of a label from one of the kits, which has circulated on social media, says it contains an oximeter, which can be used to determine blood oxygen saturation, and the drugs ivermectin, azithromycin and paracetamol.
IMSS officials told the AP that the drug was included in the kit since Dec. 21, 2020, noting that it had been under constant review. As of Dec. 30, 2021, 465,345 kits containing ivermectin were delivered in Mexico.
The decision to remove ivermectin from the kits was based on updated information from the WHO.
“It was decided to stop including it in the treatment kits as a result of the latest publication of the World Health Organization on January 14, 2022, in which the indication is in favor of using ivermectin for research study purposes only, and not to use it routinely in patients with a mild or moderate/severe (hospitalized) course of COVID-19,” the agency said in its statement.
In that WHO publication, “Therapeutics and COVID-19,” the organization maintained a recommendation it first made regarding the anti-parasitic drug in March 31, 2021: “not to use ivermectin in patients with COVID-19 except in the context of a clinical trial”.
A spokesperson of the IMSS told the AP in a phone call that, after evaluating the WHO publication and details in a Jan.10 report by The National Institute for Health and Care Excellence in the U.K., the agency modified the content of the kits, which now include only an oximeter, a facemask, paracetamol and a printed flier with patient care guidelines.
Officials did not respond to a question about how a decision was made before the reports were released.
Social media users have claimed that ivermectin can be used to treat COVID-19 in the past. However, health experts have told the AP that there’s little evidence that the drug will help and they warn that it can cause harmful side effects.
According to AP reporting, the American Medical Association, the American Pharmacists Association and the American Society of Health-System Pharmacists last year called for an immediate end to prescribing and using the drug to treat the coronavirus.
Associated Press writer Karena Phan in Sacramento, California, contributed to this
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.