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Michael Majchrowicz
By Michael Majchrowicz August 4, 2021

Claim that ivermectin is bringing down COVID-19 mortality rate in Mexico lacks evidence

If Your Time is short

  • We did not find any credible data showing a causal relationship between administering ivermectin and its overall effect on the COVID-19 excess mortality rate in Mexico.

  • A maker of ivermectin said in February that it does not believe that available data support the safety and efficacy of ivermectin for the treatment of COVID-19.  The World Health Organization in March also said that data from known trials using ivermectin were inconclusive and recommended against the use of the drug for treating COVID-19 except in clinical settings.

A graphic on social media claiming to illustrate the effects of the antiparasitic drug ivermectin and its role in decreasing COVID-19 deaths in Mexico lacks verifiable evidence.

The graphic in the post is a modified version of a chart that appears on a Mexican government website tracking excess mortality. The modified graphic includes superimposed text and shading to suggest that the decline in excess deaths coincided with and resulted from the introduction of ivermectin as a COVID-19 treatment. 

The post was flagged as part of Facebook’s efforts to combat false news and misinformation on its News Feed. (Read more about our partnership with Facebook.)

We found no evidence that supports the claim in the Facebook graphic.

Excess mortality rates in Mexico

We emailed a Mexican federal health agency for information related to the Facebook claim but did not hear back. Our research found that the Mexican federal government remains divided on the issue and has not established a unified stance on using ivermectin to treat or prevent COVID-19. Despite non-binding guidance from the country's health ministry advising that more research and data is necessary, Mexico's Institute of Social Security, a public health agency, allows the drug to be used in some cases. 

COVID-19 has killed at least 4 million people worldwide, including almost 242,000 in Mexico, according to data from Johns Hopkins University. The number of COVID-19 deaths in Mexico is widely believed to be an undercount

Excess mortality, as defined by the World Health Organization, is the difference between the observed numbers of deaths and the expected number of deaths for a specific time period.

In Mexico, excess deaths began tapering off in late winter and early spring with the first arrival of vaccines for medical workers in late December 2020. Vaccine access remains a barrier in the country and locally produced vaccines weren’t a reality until May.

The graphic circulating on Facebook was authored by Juan J. Chamie, a self-described analyst associated with an advocacy group that pushes for the use of ivermectin as a COVID-19 treatment.

In an email to PolitiFact, Chamie pointed to data from the Mexican government showing that the excess mortality rate dropped exponentially from week to week from February through July. The most recent excess mortality rate data — for the week beginning July 5 — shows that fatalities were about 7% less than projected. When looking at the excess mortality data compiled by the Mexican federal government, this year’s rate is calculated by comparing to pre-pandemic average mortality rates from 2015 to 2019, accounting for year-to-year variations.

But we found no data or evidence showing a causal relationship between that decline and ivermectin specifically. 

Featured Fact-check

"The evidence on the use of ivermectin to reduce COVID-19 hospitalizations is based on a retrospective study using COVID-19 registry data sponsored by the Mexico City Health Ministry," said Dr. Omar Yaxmehen Bello-Chavolla, an associate professor at the National Autonomous University of Mexico’s medical school in Mexico City. 

"No experimental studies have been conducted to support this claim," Bello-Chavolla said in a statement to PolitiFact. "A causal link between ivermectin and any related COVID-19 outcome cannot be ascertained with the available evidence."

Use of ivermectin in Mexico

In May, Mexico City health officials released results from a non-clinical study — a study that did not directly involve humans — that claimed ivermectin helped reduce COVID-19 hospitalizations by 76%. Results of the study were not published in any scientific or medical journals, and it did not directly address Mexico’s excess mortality rates.

The city government in December 2020 started distributing 83,000 medical kits to people at home (not hospitalized) with mild-to-moderate cases, according to the study. The kits contained three different drugs, including ivermectin. But ivermectin was the only drug trumpeted in the study released by Mexico City. The study was widely characterized as misleading, according to the Brazilian fact-checking site Estadão Verifica, since it heavily emphasized ivermectin.

Mexico’s Institute of Social Security has defended the use of the drug to treat COVID-19 and pointed to the Mexico City non-clinical study as proof of the drug’s treatment potential. 

However, there is still no firm consensus among Mexican federal government officials on the use of ivermectin against COVID-19. Ministry of Health Undersecretary Hugo López Gatell said more data was needed to paint a clearer picture of ivermectin’s efficacy (or lack thereof) as a COVID-19 treatment, the Mexico City-based news organization Animal Político reported in March.

PolitiFact has fact-checked several claims concerning ivermectin and its efficacy against COVID-19. We’ve found that some studies suggest the drug can help treat COVID-19, while other studies show no tangible effect. Many of the studies had small sample sizes and other methodological limitations. 

Pharmaceutical giant Merck & Co., which developed ivermectin and makes the drug, said in February that based on available and emerging studies of the drug to treat COVID-19, company scientists found "no scientific basis for a potential therapeutic effect." The company also said it found "a concerning lack of safety data in the majority of studies." 

A March statement from the World Health Organization also said that data from known trials using ivermectin were inconclusive and that more information was needed. It also recommended against the use of the drug for treating COVID-19 except in clinical settings.

In the U.S., the Food and Drug Administration has not approved ivermectin for the prevention or treatment of COVID-19.

Our ruling

A social media post claims that the use of ivermectin to treat individuals with COVID-19 caused a substantial decrease of excess mortality rates in Mexico. 

We found no credible published data showing a causal relationship between ivermectin and decreased COVID-19 mortality in Mexico. A maker of ivermectin has also said it does not believe that available data support the safety and efficacy of ivermectin for the treatment of COVID-19.

In the absence of evidence proving the claim, we rate this post False. 

Our Sources

Facebook post, July 24, 2021

Centers for Disease Control and Prevention information page, Excess Deaths Associated with COVID-19, accessed July 29, 2021

Email interview with Dr. Omar Yaxmehen Bello-Chavolla, associate professor at the National Autonomous University of Mexico’s medical school in Mexico City, Aug. 3, 2021

PolitiFact, Fact-checking claim about the use of ivermectin to treat COVID-19, April 23, 2021

FDA, Why You Should Not Use Ivermectin to Treat or Prevent COVID-19, March 5, 2021

World Health Organization, statement on use of Ivermectin to treat COVID-19, March 31, 2021

The Guardian, Huge study supporting ivermectin as Covid treatment withdrawn over ethical concerns, July 15, 2021

Institute for Health Metrics and Evaluation at the University of Washington School of Medicine, COVID-19 has caused 6.9 million deaths globally, more than double what official reports show, May 6, 2021

Merck & Co. Inc., Statement on Ivermectin use During the COVID-19 Pandemic, Feb. 4, 2021

Excess mortality data board from Mexican federal government, Exceso de Mortalidad en México – Coronavirus, accessed Aug. 2, 2021

Ivermectin and the odds of hospitalization due to COVID-19: evidence from a quasi-experimental analysis based on a public intervention in Mexico City, May 3, 2021

Pesquisa na Cidade do México não é capaz de provar redução de internações por covid-19 com ivermectina, May 26, 2021

The New York Times, Mexico Begins Covid Vaccine Rollout, Dec. 24, 2020

Reuters, Mexico to get first local COVID-19 vaccines, share with Argentina, May 25, 2021

Animal Político, 335 mil murieron en pandemia en 2020; cada hora murieron 38 personas El impacto, March 18, 2021

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Claim that ivermectin is bringing down COVID-19 mortality rate in Mexico lacks evidence

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