Health Canada Exec Debates Ivermectin’s Effectiveness for COVID-19 Before Labour Board

Health Canada Exec Debates Ivermectin’s Effectiveness for COVID-19 Before Labour Board
Health Canada headquarters in Ottawa in a file photo. (Sean Kilpatrick/The Canadian Press)
Noé Chartier

During a recent Labour Board hearing, a senior Health Canada official defended her department’s decision to recommend against using ivermectin to treat COVID-19, while public service employees fighting the vaccination mandate said its use could have saved lives and billions of dollars.

A key argument among those who opposed mandatory COVID vaccination was that alternative and early treatments existed to combat the infection but were suppressed by health authorities intent on vaccinating as many people as possible.

Questions along that line were posed to Dr. Celia Lourenco, acting associate assistant deputy minister with Health Canada, during hearing of the Federal Public Sector Labour Relations and Employment Board on the July 13.

The board is making its first adjudication of grievances from public servants who were placed on leave without pay and denied employment insurance benefits for not complying with the mandatory vaccination policy in force from October 2021 to June 2022.

“Do you remember CBC calling ivermectin a horse dewormer,” asked Bernard Desgagné, who is representing grievor Slim Rehibi, adding that the anti-parasitic drug’s discoverers were awarded the Nobel Prize in the category of “Physiology or Medicine” in 2015.

Dr. Lourenco said she wasn’t aware of either fact. The official, who has a Ph.D. in pharmacology, had final authority for the approval of COVID-19 injections, but wasn’t in charge of regulating drugs like ivermectin or hydroxychloroquine.

Mr. Desgagné, who is also a public servant and not a lawyer, put to Dr. Lourenco that ivermectin has been dubbed a “wonder drug” with “remarkable effectiveness” and an excellent safety profile.

She replied that the drug is approved for human and animal use in Canada but to treat worms, she said. “And it is quite effective at that, to treat parasites.”

Satoshi Omura, one of ivermectin’s discoverers, has used the term “wonder drug” to describe it, writing in a scientific paper in 2011 that it was used free of charge as the “sole tool” in campaigns to eliminate tropical diseases River Blindness and Lymphatic Filariasis. He said it is effective in treating many other diseases as well.

“It has also been used to successfully overcome several other human diseases and new uses for it are continually being found,” says the paper. Ivermectin was first introduced as a veterinary drug but was later expanded to humans.

Mr. Desgagné noted that the drug was being offered free of charge for those diseases at the time, whereas the federal government spent billions on mRNA injections.

Canada spent approximately $5 billion on COVID-19 vaccines between December 2020 and May 2022, the auditor general reported last year.

Mr. Desgagné cited from Mr. Omura’s paper to argue for ivermectin’s broader usage, but Dr. Lourenco repeated that’s it’s only authorized in Canada to treat worms in people and animals.

However, she agreed that once a drug is authorized, physicians are able to prescribe it for off-label use, but she warned that to measure the efficacy of a drug, clinical trials should be conducted.

Clinical Trials

Mr. Desgagné asked Dr. Lourenco if she was aware that over 20 clinical trials have been conducted on the use of ivermectin to treat COVID-19 since the start of the pandemic. She said she was aware of “many” trials but didn’t have an exact number.
Mr. Desgagné cited from a scientific paper published in New Microbes and New Infections in early August 2021, which looked at randomized clinical trials and meta-analyses, and assessed ivermectin to be effective in reducing mortality related to COVID-19.

Dr. Lourenco said she wasn’t able to comment without looking at the findings more closely and having the paper reviewed by her biostatistics team to assess its credibility.

“There are other meta analysis that have been conducted that have concluded that ivermectin is not beneficial in COVID-19,” she said.

In August 2021, Health Canada issued an advisory warning of the “potential serious health dangers” of using veterinary ivermectin to prevent or treat COVID-19. It advises against using the human version as well, saying there is “no evidence that ivermectin in either formulation is safe or effective when used for those purposes.”

Mr. Desgagné called the advisory “fairly radical” and in “huge contrast” with the findings in the scientific paper he referenced.

Dr. Lourenco said she was not involved in issuing the advisory, but explained it was done to remind people that ivermectin is a prescription drug and to not take the veterinary version. “We were fulfilling our role as regulator,” she said.

She added that the advisory indicates there was no evidence to support the use of ivermectin and that more recent meta-analyses continue to conclude that the drug is not beneficial against COVID-19.

One such study published by the Cochrane Library in June 2022, said the evidence is “conflicting.”

“Based on the very low‐certainty evidence for inpatients, we are still uncertain whether ivermectin prevents death or clinical worsening or increases serious adverse events, while there is low‐certainty evidence that it has no beneficial effect regarding clinical improvement, viral clearance and adverse events,” it says.

Another study published in the American Journal of Therapeutics in April 2021 went entirely the other way.
“Meta-analyses based on 18 randomized controlled treatment trials of ivermectin in COVID-19 have found large, statistically significant reductions in mortality, time to clinical recovery, and time to viral clearance.”

Conflicting Claims

Public health authorities and the media have largely come out against using ivermectin to treat COVID-19, but the debate appears unsettled.
CBC wasn’t the only major media to refer to ivermectin as a “horse dewormer.” After famous podcaster Joe Rogan said in September 2021 he used ivermectin to treat his COVID infection, multiple CNN hosts said he was using a livestock drug.
That’s the message that Health Canada’s U.S. equivalent was sending at the time. The U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) posted a controversial tweet in August 2021 to advise against the use of ivermectin.

“You are not a horse. You are not a cow. Seriously, y’all. Stop it,” it said, providing a link to an FDA web page presenting similar information as Health Canada. The FDA said it had received multiple reports of people being hospitalized for using ivermectin intended for horses.

Health Canada did not report such issues, but said it was occurring in the United States and provided the same FDA web page link.

The FDA maintains that the available data do not show that ivermectin is effective against COVID-19.

A previous review by The Epoch Times shows that out of the studies the FDA relies on to demonstrate the ineffectiveness of ivermectin, half show that it is actually effective.