What Is Ivermectin & Is It Useful For Treating Covid Related Symptoms?

The Covid pandemic that started in late 2019 is now in its second year of what most are calling the new normal. At its height, little was known about the virus, its symptoms, and its treatment. As governments worldwide raced to find treatments and vaccines, a lab in Australia made a stir by releasing a non-peer-reviewed report that proclaimed that Ivermectin, a well-known deworming drug, effectively killed the Covid virus in-vitro.

What followed was a surge in people wanting to know what this potential wonder drug was and others choosing to self-medicate because of the acclaimed effects. But as with most lab data, there is always more to the story than the press release. This article summarizes what Ivermectin is, whether it is FDA approved and whether Ivermectin for Covid-19 is a viable treatment course.

What is Ivermectin?

Ivermectin is a drug used to treat parasitic infestation diseases in humans and animals. It belongs to a family of drugs called anthelmintics that target parasites like worms by either stunning or killing them, allowing the body to expel them. The drug, listed on the World Health Organization’s List of Essential Medicines, was first synthesized in 1975 and gained adoption as a medication in 1981.

Due to its effectiveness in treating worm infestations without harming the host, its two discoverers won the 2015 Nobel Prize in Physiology or Medicine. Today, Ivermectin for animals can be found in any vet shop and bought quickly, while Ivermectin for humans can be purchased from drug stores with a doctor’s prescription.

Is Ivermectin FDA approved?

Ivermectin has been used as an animal treatment since 1981 but only gained FDA approval in the United States in 1997. The approval awarded to Merck and Co. gave the green light to market the product as a treatment for various parasitic diseases.

Since this initial approval, Ivermectin has not been approved by the FDA for any other treatments, including the treatment of Covid-19. However, some small-sample studies indicate potentially promising possibilities in its effects on viral infection.

Approved animal uses of Ivermectin

Ivermectin is approved in many countries as an antiparasitic treatment. Merck and Co. marketed the drug as an effective treatment for parasitic infestations like heartworm and acariasis (mite infestation) starting in the early eighties.

By the late eighties, Ivermectin was the best-selling veterinary drug globally, with dozens of countries approving its use in treating millions of livestock. Today, the drug is extensively used in farms and other livestock holding facilities to manage parasitic infestations.

FDA approved human uses of Ivermectin

As Ivermectin’s veterinary fame rose in the eighties, another Merck scientist approached the World Health Organization to explore possible therapeutic uses in humans.

Clinical trials found the drug was exceptionally safe and effective in treating parasitic infestations in humans. First registered in France in 1987, the drug subsequently crossed the Atlantic and received FDA approval in the United States in 1997.

According to Merck, the drug is only approved to treat parasitic infestations in humans like river blindness (onchocerciasis), scabies, head lice, strongyloidiasis, ascariasis, trichuriasis, and lymphatic filariasis.

Ivermectin for Covid-19: what the FDA, CDC, and WHO say

So far, Ivermectin has been used successfully as an antiparasitic treatment due to its pharmacologic action on parasites. However, Covid is caused by a virus, which is not a parasite, so can an antiparasitic medication also function as an antiviral medication?

According to the FDA, while such effects might be possible, only large clinical trials will provide conclusive data. At the moment, only small clinical trials have been completed. Though they have shown some preliminary possibilities, none provided conclusive data that Ivermectin is effective against the Covid virus.

The CDC and WHO echo the FDA’s sentiments. They point to the fact that there simply isn’t enough data to show that Ivermectin for Covid-19 is effective or even safe. Moreover, they urge the public not to experiment with Ivermectin, especially the high doses being touted as effective against Covid-19.

These precautions also extend to using Ivermectin preparations meant for animal treatment in humans since these formulations are not tested for humans and can include other additives that might be dangerous at high doses.

Is Ivermectin for Covid-19 effective? Time will tell

Ivermectin is indeed a wonder drug of the 20th century, having saved countless livestock and treated millions of humans with parasitic diseases over the years. While it might be capable of treating viral diseases like Covid-19, only large-scale clinical trials will confirm this hypothesis.

Currently, the CDC, FDA, and WHO counsel against the use of Ivermectin for Covid-19, urging instead to focus on better tested and safer means of combating the virus, including getting a Covid-19 test and being fully vaccinated.

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