A recent study published in The New England Journal of Medicine presented the results of a large clinical trial involving 1,300 people infected with Covid-19 to see if ivermectin, an anti-parasitic drug, was able to lessen the disease. The study participants from Brazil were given either a placebo or the medicine. According to the researchers, there wasn’t a noticeable benefit. A summary of the results was covered last August during an online presentation held by the National Institutes of Health. The current information is the complete data set being published for the first time.
Before Covid-19, ivermectin was used to treat parasitic infections. During the early stages of the pandemic, researchers were looking for any possible treatment, so they used many old drugs in laboratory experiments to see if any were able to block the coronavirus. Some initial tests with ivermectin indicated that it might be effective.
The interest in ivermectin spiked, leading researchers to conduct small clinical trials to see if the drug worked. In December 2020, a team from the University of Liverpool in England evaluated the results of 23 trials and determined that ivermectin could substantially lower the risk of death from Covid-19. This brought about a surge in the drug’s popularity, and many celebrities endorsed its use.
However, further examination of the results showed that the experiments worked because high concentrations of the drug were used. In fact, the levels were far beyond safe for actual use in humans. Also, details surfaced that many of the studies included in the Liverpool team’s analysis were flawed and, at least one, purported to be fraudulent. Thus, the researchers retracted their original study and started a new one, which was published in January. The Liverpool team concentrated on the studies least likely to be biased in their second review. The stricter evaluation found that there was no benefit to receiving ivermectin.
The Brazil study, known as TOGETHER, was started in June 2020 to test a wide number of drugs being used to treat Covid patients, including ivermectin. The treatments were double-blinded, so neither the patients nor medical staff knew if the patient was receiving the treatment or a placebo.
In the first round, the researchers found promising evidence that an antidepressant drug, fluvoxamine, lowered the need for hospitalization by one-third. These results were published in October in The Lancet Global Health.
Their data on ivermectin was just released this week. According to the material, between March and August 2021, the drug was given to 679 patients over three days. The results showed that ivermectin didn’t reduce the chances of ending up in the hospital. In reality, those who took ivermectin in the first three days after the onset of Covid symptoms had worse outcomes than those in the placebo group.
The team from Liverpool reran their analysis to include the new data from the TOGETHER trial. So, the total number of people studied to see if ivermectin is helpful against Covid-19 is over 5,000. Once more, the results indicated that there was no benefit.
It’s vital to point out that there are several ongoing randomized trials of ivermectin with thousands of volunteers. The results of these studies aren’t available yet, so there could be information in the future that contradicts the current knowledge.