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No evidence ivermectin is a miracle drug against COVID-19

December 11, 2020 GMT

CLAIM: The antiparasitic drug ivermectin “has a miraculous effectiveness that obliterates” the transmission of COVID-19 and will prevent people from getting sick.

AP’S ASSESSMENT: False. There’s no evidence ivermectin has been proven a safe or effective treatment against COVID-19.

THE FACTS: During a Senate hearing Tuesday, a group of doctors touted alternative COVID-19 treatments, including ivermectin and the anti-malaria medication hydroxychloroquine. Medical experts have cautioned against using either of those drugs to treat COVID-19. Studies have shown that hydroxychloroquine has no benefit against the coronavirus and can have serious side effects. No evidence has been shown to prove that ivermectin works against COVID-19.

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Dr. Pierre Kory, a pulmonary and critical care specialist at Aurora St Luke’s Medical Center in Milwaukee, described ivermectin as a “wonder drug” with immensely powerful antiviral and anti-inflammatory agents at the hearing before the Senate Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs Committee.

Clips of Kory’s comments on ivermectin during the hearing were shared widely on social media with one clip receiving more than 1 million views on YouTube.

Ivermectin is approved in the U.S. in tablet form to treat parasitic worms as well as a topical solution to treat external parasites. The drug is also available for animals. The U.S. Food and Drug Administration and the National Institutes of Health have said that the drug is not approved for the prevention or treatment of COVID-19. According to the FDA, side effects for the drug include skin rash, nausea and vomiting.

Dr. Amesh Adalja, an infectious disease expert at Johns Hopkins University, said most of the research around ivermectin at the moment is made up of anecdotes and studies that are not the gold standard in terms of how to use ivermectin.

“We need to get much more data before we can say this is a definitive treatment,” he said. “We would like to see more data before I recommend it to my patients.”

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Kory told the AP that he stands by the comments he made at the hearing, saying that he was not trying to promote the drug but the data around it.

In June, Australian researchers published the findings of a study that found ivermectin inhibited the replication of SARS-CoV-2 in a laboratory setting, which is not the same as testing the drug on humans or animals. Following the study, the FDA released a letter out of concern warning consumers not to self-medicate with ivermectin products intended for animals.

“It is a far cry from an in vitro lab replication to helping humans,” said Dr. Nasia Safdar, medical director of infection prevention at the University of Wisconsin-Madison Hospital.

The discussion about the drug in the Senate hearing has some experts worried that Americans will start buying up ivermectin out of desperation. Despite a majority of evidence showing hydroxychloroquine is not an effective COVID-19 treatment, there was a rush on that drug earlier this year after President Donald Trump called it a cure. That depleted supply for those who needed the medication to treat lupus and other conditions.

In March, an Arizona couple attempted to self-medicate and took chloroquine phosphate, an additive used to clean fish tanks that is also an ingredient in hydroxychloroquine. The woman became gravely ill and the man died.

“If there is one thing we have learned in the pandemic is that we cannot jump the gun as far as determining or making assumptions about the effectiveness of potential agents,” Safdar said.

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This is part of The Associated Press’ ongoing effort to fact-check misinformation that is shared widely online, including work with Facebook to identify and reduce the circulation of false stories on the platform.

Here’s more information on Facebook’s fact-checking program: https://www.facebook.com/help/1952307158131536