Eight months into the pandemic and without much guidance from federal health agencies on therapies for COVID-19, doctors are turning to an inexpensive anti-parasitic drug as a treatment for all stages of the disease.
Ivermectin, an anti-parasitic medication used for almost three decades, has proven in vitro to stop the replication of several RNA viruses that include zika, dengue, and the CCP (Chinese Communist Party) virus, which causes the disease COVID-19.
It’s used for various parasitic infections in both animals and humans. It treats river blindness, scabies, lymphatic filariasis, and head lice in humans.
The drug is inexpensive and safe when used for its “indications, at the currently approved doses” with mostly mild side effects, according to the Barcelona Institute for Global Health, a co-sponsor of a clinical trial on ivermectin that is currently active.
Dr. Thomas Brody, a prominent Australian gastroenterologist known for curing peptic ulcers with his triple antibiotics therapy, believes a combination therapy of ivermectin, doxycycline, and zinc is the “cure” to COVID-19.
He told NCA Newswire in September that he’s used the therapy on at least 15 of his COVID-19 patients who improved in 10 days with very few side effects. “Within 48 hours their cough had gone down and fever decreased—their oxygen levels had also significantly improved in that time,” Brody said.
Brody is calling for Australian government officials to look into the research of the therapy and prescribe it “to the masses” so that lockdowns can end.
Another proponent of ivermectin is Dr. Bruce Boros, a cardiologist who owns three urgent care clinics in the Florida Keys. For several months now, he’s been prescribing the drug to all of his COVID-19 patients, including those only showing COVID-19 signs without being tested, according to the Miami Herald.
Boros, like other doctors prescribing ivermectin, say early intervention is the key for a better outcome instead of waiting for the disease to progress to seek treatments.
The U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA), however, doesn’t recommend the drug in treating COVID-19 and said that “Any use of ivermectin for the prevention or treatment of COVID-19 should be avoided as its benefits and safety for these purposes have not been established.”
The federal agency also warned against self-medicating with ivermectin meant for animals. “People should never take animal drugs, as the FDA has only evaluated their safety and effectiveness in the particular animal species for which they are labeled,” the FDA said in an April 10 letter to stakeholders soon after a study generated interest in the drug. The study showed a single dose of ivermectin killed the CCP virus grown in cell culture within 48 hours.
One of the first doctors to try ivermectin on patients is Dr. Jean-Jacques Rajter, a pulmonologist with Broward Health in Florida.
He began using the drug in April when one of his patient’s condition quickly deteriorated and would require intubation.
Rajter researched the approved safe dose for human ingestion and gave it to his patient. Within 24 hours of taking ivermectin, the patient’s condition stabilized and intubation was not needed. The patient’s overall symptoms improved significantly in 48 hours. “Probably within a week or so, she was discharged to home,” Rajter told the Trialsite News podcast in July.
Rajter would replicate the same success using ivermectin in other patients at his hospital, treating about 15 to 20 COVID patients in about a week.
Broward Health soon approved of ivermectin as part of their hospitals’ treatment protocol for COVID-19, which already included hydroxychloroquine, remdesivir, zinc, and vitamin C.
Rajter co-authored a retrospective observational study of 280 patients treated with either ivermectin or standard of care only. He and his team found a lower mortality rate in the ivermectin group (15 percent vs 25 percent). Mortality was also much lower in patients with severe pulmonary involvement at 38.8 percent compared to 80.7 percent in the standard of care group.
In a small study out of India, researchers matched healthcare workers who were taking ivermectin as a prophylaxis to a control group not taking any prophylaxis and observed them for a month. They found that the ivermectin group had a 73 percent less infection rate compared to the control group. The study is a preprint and has not yet been peer-reviewed.
There are around 41 trials that are being or will be conducted on the anti-parasitic drug, ten of which have already been completed, according to clinicaltrials.gov. These studies show positive results in lowering the mortality rate in hospitalized patients, reducing disease progression, and possibly preventing COVID-19.
Only three of the trials are based in the United States with none being federally funded like the remdesivir trials where 11 of the 31 studies are either funded by the NIH or a different federal agency.
When asked if there will be any federally funded ivermectin studies in the near future, the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases (NIAID) told The Epoch Times in an email that “it has supported research to test ivermectin in vitro for its effects on COVID-19. NIAID is considering supporting research into ivermectin for treating COVID-19 in animal models. However, considering the current standard oral dosage for ivermectin, it may be a challenge to reach sufficient exposures for antiviral activity in vivo.”
The NIH says it only recommends ivermectin in the treatment of COVID-19 in clinical trials.
Authors of the ivermectin trials and proponents agree that there need to be more randomized controlled trials to determine if the drug prevents or treats COVID-19.
Even without such trials, the Eastern Virginia Medical School is recommending the I-MASK+ protocol as prophylaxis and early outpatient treatment that includes ivermectin as the main drug, along with vitamin D and C, and zinc.
And in West Bengal in eastern India, the top health officials sent a memo (pdf) to all of the hospitals in September, recommending a treatment protocol of ivermectin and doxycycline for mild to moderate COVID-19 cases, and only ivermectin as a prophylaxis against the disease.