Despite continuing evidence to the contrary, the debate about the benefit of ivermectin in the treatment of Covid-19 infections continues. Ivermectin, used in its injectable and oral forms to treat intestinal worms in horses, is also FDA-approved for use in humans to treat river blindness, also known as onchocerciasis, head lice, and intestinal strongyloides infections. It has never been approved to treat or prevent Covid-19 infections. Even without evidence of benefit, demand for and use of ivermectin increased nearly 25-fold during the first year and a half of the pandemic. With this increase in use has come an increase in complications associated with ivermectin, including patients developing psychiatric and neurological disorders, seizures, and coma. Although until recently there was no evidence that ivermectin helped reduce problems related to Covid-19 infection, there is now evidence that this is not the case.
A study published this week Journal of the American Medical Association (PIT) about a double-blind, placebo-controlled, randomized trial of nearly 1,600 adults with mild to moderate Covid-19 infection. This type of study provides the most accurate, unbiased results because neither the participants nor the study researchers know whether the individuals are receiving a placebo or the drug, and neither the participants nor the study researchers choose which one they receive. In addition, the study follows participants over time (prospective), as opposed to evaluating outcomes from past events.
While countless recommendations from doctors, the FDA, the Centers for Disease Control, and the National Institutes of Health have recommended the use of ivermectin to treat Covid-19 infections, countless individuals have and continue to use it. This study unbiasedly answers whether it works better than a placebo, also known as a “sugar pill.” Obstacle course cut, no. But read on to see why and what the study found.
Between June 2021 and February 2022, nearly 1,600 participants with acute Covid-19 infection who experienced at least two symptoms for one week were enrolled at 93 centers in the United States. Patients received either a placebo or ivermectin for three days. Several results were then evaluated. The average time to recovery was 12 days in the ivermectin group and 13 days in the placebo group. Ten patients in the ivermectin group were hospitalized or died; 9 in the placebo group. Five in the ivermectin group developed Covid-19-related pneumonia, as did seven in the placebo group. Overall, recovery, severe disease, death, and complications were comparable in the two groups.
The placebo effect, where patients experience improvement in symptoms even when given a placebo, is an area of intense study. There is growing evidence that this effect is not “fake” as previously thought, but produces “real” results, even when patients know they are receiving a placebo. Perhaps the patients in the ivermectin/placebo study did relatively well because of this effect.
This is another study that shows no benefit of using ivermectin in the treatment of Covid-19 infections. Similar studies have been conducted in the hospital setting but have either been retracted or retracted due to concerns about inaccurate reporting and fraud. Studies such as this double-blind randomized controlled trial are underway to better identify evidence of both effective and ineffective and potentially harmful treatments for Covid-19.
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