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- Ivermectin was approved by the Food and Drug Administration in 1996 to treat two diseases caused by parasites. It hasn’t been approved or authorized by the FDA to prevent or treat COVID-19, and ivermectin intended for human use is different from ivermectin intended for animals.
- “Use of animal ivermectin for the prevention or treatment of COVID-19 in humans is dangerous,” the FDA says.
Americans who have turned to ivermectin to treat COVID-19 have drawn both ridicule and support.
One recent social media post, seemingly in the latter camp, argues that the drug "has been FDA approved for human use since 1996."
This 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.)
It is true that ivermectin was approved by the Food and Drug Administration that year — but not to treat the coronavirus. The drug was approved for strongyloidiasis, a disease caused by a roundworm, and onchocerciasis, or river blindness, which is caused by a parasitic worm.
The drug was approved for humans under the brand name Stromectol, National Geographic reported, and since then it’s been recognized as a safe treatment for several tropical diseases caused by parasites. In 2015, two scientists even won a Nobel Prize for their discovery of ivermectin and its use to treat diseases caused by parasites.
But unlike, say, river blindness, COVID-19 is caused by a coronavirus, not by parasites. And as PolitiFact recently reported in a story exploring ivermectin, there’s no conclusive evidence that ivermectin is effective against COVID-19.
Indeed, it carries physical risks, and the FDA warns against using it, saying that while "ivermectin tablets are approved at very specific doses to treat some parasitic worms, and there are topical (on the skin) formulations for head lice and skin conditions like rosacea … the FDA has received multiple reports of patients who have required medical attention, including hospitalization, after self-medicating with ivermectin intended for livestock."
The science on whether ivermectin intended for humans could help treat COVID-19 is limited and mixed. Some studies, many with small sample sizes, have suggested it can, and others have shown no significant impact.
The World Health Organization advises against using ivermectin with COVID-19 patients "except in the context of a clinical trial" because there’s "very low-certainty evidence" that the drug works. Such clinical trials are ongoing.
So while ivermectin has been approved by the FDA for human use since 1996, the FDA has not authorized or approved ivermectin to prevent or treat COVID-19.
And, the ivermectin products intended for animals are different from the products approved for humans. "Use of animal ivermectin for the prevention or treatment of COVID-19 in humans is dangerous," the FDA says.
The statement in the Facebook post is accurate but needs additional clarification. We rate it Mostly True.
Facebook post, Sept. 4, 2021
FDA letter, Nov. 22, 1996
PolitiFact, A Nobel Prize and a horse dewormer: Explaining the controversy over ivermectin and COVID-19, Sept. 8, 2021
World Health Organization, Therapeutics and COVID-19: living guideline, July 6, 2021
U.S. Food and Drug Administration, "Why You Should Not Use Ivermectin to Treat or Prevent COVID-19," Sept. 3, 2021
PolitiFact, "No evidence yet concluding that ivermectin is an effective COVID-19 treatment," Aug. 10, 2021
PolitiFact, "Fact-checking claim about the use of ivermectin to treat COVID-19," April 23, 2021
National Geographic, "The shaky science behind ivermectin as a COVID-19 cure," Sept. 2, 2021
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