Ivermectin useless against Covid-19, TOGETHER study concludes

The drug, popularized by podcast host Joe Rogan as a treatment for Covid-19, is “useless” against the disease, a major new study has found.

Ivermectin, the antiparasitic popularized by podcast host Joe Rogan as a treatment for Covid-19, is “useless” against the disease, a major new study has found.

Researchers from the TOGETHER study, a global project that is a series of clinical trials testing the effectiveness of several repurposed drugs to treat Covid-19, conducted a double-blind, randomized, placebo-controlled study in 3515 patients in clinics in Brazil.

Patients who had symptoms for up to seven days and at least one risk factor were randomly assigned to treatment with ivermectin or placebo, with 679 people in each group — 2,157 received another intervention.

Those receiving ivermectin received a dose of 400 micrograms per kilogram of body weight once a day for three days.

“Treatment with ivermectin did not result in a reduced incidence of medical admissions to hospital for the progression of Covid-19 or prolonged observation in the emergency department in outpatients with an early diagnosis of Covid-19,” the published paper concluded summarizes the results this week in New England Journal of Medicine.

TOGETHER researchers noted that the evidence supporting ivermectin’s role in treating Covid-19 was “inconsistent”.

“At least three meta-analyses of ivermectin trials have strongly suggested a treatment benefit, and others have concluded that there was no benefit,” they wrote.

“Although the number of included studies with outpatients varies in the meta-analyses, the total number of events that occurred in our study is greater than the number of all combined events in these meta-analyses. The results of this study will therefore reduce the effect size of the meta-analyses that have shown benefit.”

In conversation with the Brisbane times On Thursday, co-author Craig Rayner of drug development company Certara said the TOGETHER study comprehensively analyzed ivermectin for possible benefits.

“We found that treatment with ivermectin did not reduce the need for medical admissions in hospital settings for Covid-19 patients,” he said. “We looked at it from multiple angles and with multiple subgroup analyses, and ultimately there is no evidence of any important clinical efficacy of ivermectin in Covid-19.”

dr Rayner said he hopes the research will eliminate the problem once and for all.

“There are more than 80 randomized trials of ivermectin,” he said. “Meta-analyses, removing the low-quality and fraudulent studies, have shown that ivermectin has no treatment benefit. I think overall the body of knowledge does not support the use of ivermectin to treat Covid-19 at any stage of the disease.”

In the UK, the large-scale PRINCIPLE study – Platform Randomized Trial of Treatments in the Community for Epidemic and Pandemic Illnesses – announced in June 2021 that it would add ivermectin.

This process is not yet complete. PRINCIPLE researchers did not immediately respond to a request for comment.

Health experts have taken to social media to comment on the latest study.

DR Eric Topol of the Scripps Research Institute wrote on Twitter: “Ivermectin: largest randomized, double-blind study to date with early treatment shows no difference compared to placebo. It doesn’t work Period.”

Brett Sutton, Victoria’s Chief Health Officer, wrote: “No, ivermectin does not have good evidence that it works. But we have molnupiravir on the PBS for those at risk of serious illness. And Paxlovid also TGA approved. Both with real effectiveness for those most at risk.”

professor Gregory Dore from UNSW’s Kirby Institute said: “The TOGETHER study shows that we can all say that ivermectin is useless for Covid.”

But dr Peter McCullough, a cardiologist who has criticized Covid-19 vaccines and advocated alternative treatments including ivermectin, said the TOGETHER study was “too small” and “underpowered” and that three days was too short.

“Standard of treatment practice now at 600 micrograms for a longer duration with four to six additional drugs,” he wrote.

Ivermectin was first touted as a therapeutic for Covid-19 in early 2020 after scientists in Melbourne found it could inhibit SARS-CoV-2 at high doses in the lab.

It then began to gain popularity as a treatment with some doctors and the likes of Rogan – who credited his speedy recovery after contracting the virus to a cocktail of drugs including ivermectin – although health officials and the drug’s maker, Merck, warned before his Use cautioned and cited lack of evidence.

Last month, billionaire Clive Palmer said he probably would have “died” without a cocktail of antiviral drugs including ivermectin and hydroxychloroquine after contracting Covid-19 in February.

Mr Palmer, who is unvaccinated, contracted the more deadly Delta variant in Sydney and was taken to Pindara Hospital on February 27.

He told Sky News Queensland editor Peter Gleeson that the drugs were recommended to him by a team of specialists who treated former US President Donald Trump.

“Otherwise I would have died without a doubt,” said Mr. Palmer.

In September, Australia’s Therapeutic Goods Administration banned doctors from prescribing ivermectin off-label.

GPs can now only prescribe ivermectin for TGA-approved conditions, such as scabies and certain parasitic infections.

Ivermectin was first discovered in 1975 and came to medicinal use in 1981. It was approved for human use in 1988.

In 2015, half of that year’s Nobel Prize in Physiology or Medicine went jointly to the discoverers of ivermectin, Satoshi Ōmura of Kitasato University and William Campbell of Merck.

The drug is sold in both human and animal formulations.

Veterinarians use it to deworm pets and cattle.

For humans, it exists in tablet form and has been widely used in Africa to treat intestinal strongyloidiasis and onchocerciasis — also known as river blindness — caused by parasitic worms.

Topical formulations are also used to combat head lice and skin conditions like rosacea.

When the drug is taken as directed, it is of low risk – but when taken in large doses, it can cause serious side effects, including severe nausea and vomiting, and neurological effects such as dizziness, seizures, and coma.

In August last year, the US Food and Drug Administration urged Americans to stop taking the drug by referring to the veterinary version.

The FDA said it has seen an increase in reports of patients being hospitalized after self-medicating with ivermectin.

“You are not a horse. you are not a cow Seriously, all of you. Stop it,” the FDA tweeted.

frank.chung@news.com.au

Originally published as study finds ivermectin ‘useless’ against Covid-19