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A study — actually a review of trials done with ivermectin on COVID-19 patients — claims large reductions in COVID-19 deaths are “possible using ivermectin.”
The study was done by researchers affiliated with a group that is campaigning for ivermectin to be approved for COVID-19 use, and they did not declare that affiliation in their study. Experts said ivermectin trials on which the review is based were not high quality.
The FDA warns against taking ivermectin to prevent or treat COVID-19.
Is the anti-parasitic drug ivermectin a "cure" for COVID-19?
We’ve rated False claims such as "mountains of data" show ivermectin "basically obliterates" COVID-19 transmission. Some limited studies suggested that ivermectin can help treat COVID-19; others show no significant impact. Many of the studies had small sample sizes and other limitations.
At the same time, ivermectin has not been universally dismissed as a potential treatment.
A new study has reignited the debate, making claims about fewer coronavirus deaths even though public health authorities say more research is needed.
"New study links ivermectin to ‘large reductions’ in COVID-19 deaths," reads one headline on the Epoch Times.
The headline exaggerates, given that the study says only that fewer deaths might be possible. It is a review of trials done with ivermectin on COVID-19 patients.
Moreover, the study was done by researchers affiliated with a group that is campaigning for ivermectin to be approved for COVID-19 use. Despite their connection to the group, the authors declared in the study they had no conflict of interest.
The World Health Organization, in its COVID-19 treatment guidelines, says: "We recommend not to use ivermectin in patients with COVID-19 except in the context of a clinical trial," citing "very low certainty evidence" about the drug.
The U.S. Food and Drug Administration says ivermectin should not be used to prevent or treat COVID-19. Ivermectin, which is FDA-approved to treat conditions caused by parasitic worms and parasites such as lice, in large doses "is dangerous and can cause serious harm."
Here’s what we know about the study generating favorable headlines of the drug as a way to prevent or treat COVID-19.
The peer-reviewed study in the American Journal of Therapeutics was published June 17 and led by Andrew Bryant, a research associate in gastroenterology at the Population Health Sciences Institute of Newcastle University.
The researchers said they analyzed results from studies and looked at mortality rates among people who were given ivermectin versus people who weren’t. The researchers concluded:
"Moderate-certainty evidence finds that large reductions in COVID-19 deaths are possible using ivermectin. Using ivermectin early in the clinical course may reduce numbers progressing to severe disease. The apparent safety and low cost suggest that ivermectin is likely to have a significant impact on the SARS-CoV-2 pandemic globally."
They added: "Health professionals should strongly consider its use, in both treatment and" prevention.
Experts said the trials that the study relies on are not high quality.
Dr. Amesh Adalja, a senior scholar at the Johns Hopkins University Center for Health Security, said the study is a meta-analysis (an analysis of other analyses) "whose strength is dependent on the underlying studies that comprise it."
"In general, most of the ivermectin studies that purport to show a positive benefit are of low quality and have potential sources of bias," which is why the drug is not recommended by the National Institutes of Health or the Infectious Diseases Society of America, he said. "It is only with rigorously designed randomized control trials that any true benefit can be discovered."
Assuming the meta-analysis is correct, ivermectin "would seem to merit further study," said Stephen Morse, an epidemiology professor at Columbia University Medical Center.
Some drugs initially seem promising, but don’t hold up in more rigorous clinical testing, Morse said. For instance, some insisted that hydroxychloroquine was "a cure," but there hasn’t been strong supporting data for it, he said.
"That can be a real problem, and raise unrealistic expectations for a drug that might be very promising or useful, but not a homerun," Morse said.
Some of the studies analyzed in the ivermectin meta-analysis were not peer reviewed, said Dr. David Gorski, a professor of surgery and oncology at Wayne State University and chief of breast surgery at the Karmanos Cancer Institute, who has criticized the June study.
"Pooling data from a large number of small, low-quality clinical trials does not magically create one large, high-quality clinical trial," wrote Gorski, who is also managing editor of Science-Based Medicine, a website that evaluates medical claims.
He added: "The few existing higher quality clinical trials testing ivermectin against the disease uniformly have failed to find a positive result. It’s only the smaller, lower-quality trials that have been positive. This is a good indication that the drug probably doesn’t work."
BIRD describes itself as "campaigning for the safe medicine ivermectin to be approved to prevent and cure COVID-19 around the world."
Tess Lawrie, who is one of the study’s co-authors and a BIRD leader, told PolitiFact in an email that her study "shows that large reductions in deaths from COVID are probable when ivermectin is used, especially when employed as early treatment."
Another meta-analysis, published June 28, arrived at an opposite conclusion.
That study was led by a University of Connecticut researcher and appeared in the peer-reviewed journal Clinical Infectious Diseases, a publication of the Infectious Diseases Society of America. It found that in comparison to standard of care or placebo, ivermectin "did not reduce all-cause mortality." The study concluded saying that the drug "is not a viable option to treat COVID-19 patients."
BIRD reacted by calling on the journal to take down the meta-analysis or issue a warning about its "incorrect information."
Epoch Times, "New Study Links Ivermectin to ‘Large Reductions’ in COVID-19 Deaths," June 21, 2021
American Journal of Therapeutics, "Ivermectin for Prevention and Treatment of COVID-19 Infection," June 17, 2021
Science-Based Medicine, "Ivermectin is the new hydroxychloroquine, take 2," June 21, 2021
BIRD Group, home page, accessed June 28, 2021
BIRD Group, "Ivermectin for prevention and treatment of covid-19," Feb. 27, 2021
BIRD Group, "The BIRD Recommendation on the Use of Ivermectin for Covid-19," accessed June 28, 2021
BIRD Group, "Who are the BIRD Group?", accessed June 28, 2021
Email, BIRD Group leader Tess Lawrie, June 30, 2021
Email, Dr. David Gorski, a professor of surgery and oncology at Wayne State University, chief of breast surgery at the Karmanos Cancer Institute and managing editor of Science-Based Medicine, June 28, 2021
Email, Dr. Amesh Adalja, senior scholar, Johns Hopkins University Center for Health Security, June 28, 2021
Email, Stephen Morse, epidemiology professor at Columbia University Medical Center and director of the Infectious Disease Epidemiology Certificate Program, June 28, 2021