Politicians around the world are advocating the use Ivermectin, an anti-parasitic drug that is commonly used on animals, to treat COVID-19. The Philippine Food and Drug Administration and it global counterparts have warned against it, saying its efficacy against the coronavirus disease is unproven.
As the planet enters its second year under the COVID-19 pandemic, with many countries returning to hard lockdowns to contain dangerous spikes in infections, authorities are searching for a cure as they roll our vaccines. The virus has killed 2.85 million people as of April 6, according to an AFP tally.
Here's what you need to know about Ivermectin:
What is Ivermectin?
Ivermectin is an anti-parasitic drug that is used to treat worms that cause river blindness (onchocerciasis), helminthiases and scabies, according to the U.S. National Institutes of Health. It is being tested for use against malaria-bearing mosquitoes.
It is not approved to treat viral diseases such as COVID-19, according to the NIH.
For now, Ivermectin is approved for use to fight diseases caused by parasites, not viruses.
Is Ivermectin for animals or humans?
Ivermectin is used as an anti-parasitic both for animals and humans.
The U.S. FDA approves Ivermectin for use agains worms that cause river blindless and head lice. For animals, Ivermectin is used to treat heartworm disease and certain external and internal parasites.
Ivermectin for humans is taken by mouth with a full glass of water and on a full stomach, according to WebMD. The dosage will depend on the patient's weight, medical condition and response to treatment.
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Is Ivermectin approved for COVID treatment in the Philippines?
No, according to the FDA, which "advises the public against the purchase and use of Ivermectin veterinary products against COVID-19."
Ivermectin is FDA-approved for humans in the Philippines, just not for COVID-19. It can be used to treat head lice and other parasites but should be taken only with a prescription, the FDA said.
"The drug is an important part of a parasite control program for some animal species and should only be administered according to its approved indication, or as prescribed by a duly licensed veterinarian," it said.
What is the argument for Ivermectin as a cure for COVID?
According to the U.S. NIH, reports suggest that Ivermectin prevents the SARS-CoV-2 virus that causes COVID-19 from invading healthy cells, thus suppressing the infection. Other studies suggest that the drug acts as an anti-inflammatory in COVID patients.
However, both claims have yet to be proven in clinical trials, according to the NIH.
The U.S. FDA said initial research was underway, however, it had not reviewed data to justify its use for COVID treatment.
"Taking a drug for an unapproved use can be very dangerous. This is true of Ivermectin, too," it said.
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Who is advocating Ivermectin for COVID treatment?
In the Philippines, Anakalusugan party-list Rep. Mike Defensor said he was giving away Ivermectin free to indigents in Quezon City, where he is based. Anakalusugan is a healthcare advocate group.
Brazilian President Jair Bolsonaro, in a tweet in January, claimed that ivermectin could be responsible for the relatively low number of coronavirus deaths in Africa.
In May 2020, the Bolivian government announced that it had authorized ivermectin to treat coronavirus patients, despite admitting there was "to date no scientific evidence of a drug treatment for COVID-19".