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Tom Kertscher
By Tom Kertscher August 10, 2021

No evidence yet concluding that ivermectin is an effective COVID-19 treatment

If Your Time is short

  • Researchers say there is no conclusive evidence that the anti-parasite drug is an effective COVID-19 treatment.

  • Ivermectin is not approved for COVID-19 prevention or treatment by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration. The FDA has also gone a step further, recommending against its use for COVID-19.

A widely shared Facebook post claims that ivermectin, which has emerged as a controversial drug during the coronavirus pandemic, is effective in treating COVID-19.

"How long after the last day of fever with the Rona should I wait to return to work? I feel fine now just don’t want to get the guys sick," the Facebook user says, with "Rona" being a reference to the coronavirus. "Btw less than a hour after taking Ivermectin paste per my body weight I was mostly symptom free.... Was in bad shape until then! This s*** works I don’t care what anyone else says."

With the post is a photo showing a box and a syringe of ivermectin paste — both labeled "for oral use in horses only."

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.)

In the United States, ivermectin is approved for some uses in humans, but not to prevent or treat COVID-19. While some studies have asserted that the anti-parasite drug might work against COVID-19, researchers who have reviewed numerous ivermectin studies say there is not conclusive evidence that it is effective against the disease.   

Since March 2021, the U.S. Food and Drug Administration has warned not to use ivermectin — which is often used in the United States to treat or prevent parasites in animals — to prevent or treat COVID-19:

"The FDA has received multiple reports of patients who have required medical support and been hospitalized after self-medicating with ivermectin intended for horses.

"FDA has not approved ivermectin for use in treating or preventing COVID-19 in humans. Ivermectin tablets are approved at very specific doses for some parasitic worms, and there are on-the-skin formulations for head lice and skin conditions like rosacea. Ivermectin is not an antiviral — a drug for treating viruses.

"Animal drugs are often highly concentrated because they are used for large animals like horses and cows, which can weigh a lot more than we do—a ton or more. Such high doses can be highly toxic in humans."

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.

We rated False a claim that "mountains of data" show ivermectin "basically obliterates" COVID-19 transmission. 

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Some limited studies suggested that ivermectin can help treat COVID-19; others show no significant impact. Overall, many of the studies had small sample sizes and other limitations. Some researchers have called for more study of the drug.

In June, one meta-analysis — an analysis of results from other studies — arrived at a different conclusion than another one did:

  • One meta-analysis concluded that "moderate-certainty evidence finds that large reductions in COVID-19 deaths are possible using ivermectin." That study was done by researchers affiliated with a group that is campaigning for ivermectin to be approved for COVID-19 use. 

  • The other meta-analysis found that ivermectin "did not reduce all-cause mortality" when compared to standard of care or placebo. The study concluded that the drug "is not a viable option to treat COVID-19 patients."

After a preliminary December 2020 study claimed that ivermectin could reduce COVID-19 death rates by more than 90%, the publisher in July 2021 withdrew the non-peer reviewed study "due to an expression of concern communicated directly to our staff. These concerns are now under formal investigation." 

Also in July, researchers from Germany and the UK who examined studies on ivermectin and COVID-19 concluded:

"Based on the current very low- to low-certainty evidence, we are uncertain about the efficacy and safety of ivermectin used to treat or prevent COVID-19. The completed studies are small and few are considered high quality. Several studies are underway that may produce clearer answers in review updates. Overall, the reliable evidence available does not support the use of ivermectin for treatment or prevention of COVID-19 outside of well-designed randomized trials."

Meanwhile, a health economist and a consultant to pharmaceutical companies argued in an opinion article in the Wall Street Journal about ivermectin that "the statistically significant evidence suggests that it is safe and works for both treating and preventing" COVID-19, and so the FDA should give it emergency use authorization for use against COVID-19. 

Our ruling

A Facebook post declares that ivermectin is an effective treatment for COVID-19.

Some studies have raised the possibility that the drug might work against COVID-19. 

But reviews of numerous studies of ivermectin have found there is no conclusive evidence that it is effective against COVID-19, and public health authorities including the FDA have recommended against using it to treat the virus.

That doesn’t exclude the possibility that ivermectin could work in isolated cases, but the post ignores critical facts that would give a different impression. The post contains only an element of truth. We rate it Mostly False.

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More by Tom Kertscher

No evidence yet concluding that ivermectin is an effective COVID-19 treatment

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