Should Ivermectin be Used as a Prophylactic for COVID-19?

What do we know about Ivermectin? How safe is it?

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Can Ivermectin prevent COVID?
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The devastating impact of COVID and a distinct lack of treatment options against the viral infection has left medical professionals scrambling to find any and all solutions that may help soften the blow ever so.

One way they have done this is by turning to an already existing arsenal of medicines to find which of them could be repurposed for use in COVID infections.

So far, however, the hunt has not been exceptionally fruitful.

Some of these treatment options include Hydroxychloroquine, Remdesivir, and Plasma therapy.

One other drug that falls in this list is Ivermectin.

But like every other 'miracle drug', Ivermectin, too, has come under scrutiny and has a fair bit of controversy surrounding it.

What is Ivermectin? What is it used for? Does it help with COVID? Is it safe to take? FIT breaks it down.

What is Ivermectin?

Ivermectin is a deworming drug used to treat and prevent parasites in animals, particularly in horses.

In humans, it is used to treat certain intestinal and topical parasitic worms and skin conditions.

According to the WHO, It is also used in the treatment of scabies, onchocerciasis (river blindness), strongyloidiasis and other diseases caused by soil transmitted helminthiasis.

But, what does a deworming drug have to do with COVID?

Why is it being prescribed for COVID?

The drug started being prescribed around the world by doctors based on some anecdotal evidence that it helps alleviate severe symptoms of COVID.

This In-Virto study, conducted in Australia in June 2020 was the first of its kind to spark an interest in the drug as a possible treatment for COVID, reported The Washington Post.

According to the study, Ivermectin is said to work by 'inhibiting the host importing alpha/beta-1 nuclear transport proteins, which are part of a key intracellular transport process that the COVID viruses hijack to enhance infection by suppressing the host’s antiviral response'.

The interest that the drug has garnered over the past few months has prompted many studies that aim to examine this link further, but none of these has been reviewed or approved yet. There are also trials ongoing in India.

Should you be taking Ivermectin as a prophylactic for COVID?

In October 2020, the Health Ministry said that Ivermectin will not be included in the Ministry's Clinical Management Protocol for COVID-19. At the time, it was being used as a prophylactic in states like Uttar Pradesh and Maharashtra as an off-label drug. In fact, UP, and several other states, are still prescribing the drug for patients under home isolation and to their secondary contacts.

In March 2021, the WHO said that the current evidence on the use of ivermectin drug to treat COVID-19 patients is inconclusive and until more data is available, it has recommended that the drug only be used within clinical trials.

Taking Ivermectin meant for animals is especially dangerous.

According to the US Food and Drug Administration (FDA), the preparation of Ivermectin approved for humans and that used to treat animals is completely different, and should not be used interchangeably.

Self-medicating patients can sometimes end up taking the drug meant for animals, and the FDA particularly warns of the serious harm that can do.

The FDA also warns that Ivermectin in large doses can be dangerous, causing anything from nausea, dizziness, and an allergic reaction, to seizures, coma and even death.

According to the FDA, "even the levels of ivermectin for approved uses can interact with other medications, like blood-thinners."

Medical authorities—including WHO, the US FDA, European Medicines Agency (EMA), and the US NIH— do not recommend the use of Ivermectin for COVID until proper clinical trials are conducted and reviewed and the drug is officially authorised for the treatment or prevention of COVID.

COVID and its 'Miracle' Drugs

The devastation and fear that the second wave of COVID has brought in India is palpable. Cases and deaths surge every day, breaking the previous day's record, and our healthcare system stands at the brink of collapse with no respite in sight.

So it isn't a wonder that in this context of desperation, alternate treatments like Ivermectin, and other 'miracle drugs' and remedies are gaining steam.

"I know that people in this time want to try for everything they can - even if the evidence for effectiveness is not as strong,” Dr Ray had told FIT in a previous article.

Whether Ivermectin could indeed be a viable treatment for COVID is something that only further research can determine.

At this point, the best we can do to prevent COVID is still the same as its always been — wear masks, wash your hands frequently, avoid crowded places and unnecessary travels, observe social distancing, and get vaccinated if you are eligible.

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