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Can existing drugs, like ivermectin, help prevent or treat COVID-19?
Short answer: At this point, there is not enough scientific evidence to support using ivermectin to prevent or to treat COVID-19. However strong scientific evidence does exist about some other treatments as well as for the vaccines authorized in Canada, demonstrating they are safe and highly effective at preventing COVID-19.
Ivermectin is a medication approved for treating parasite infections, such as river blindness, head lice, scabies, and strongyloidiasis. It is also used in animals to prevent and treat heartworm and other parasite infections. It is not used to prevent or treat viruses.
While not developed for COVID-19 or other viruses, there has been a lot of interest in whether ivermectin could help prevent or treat COVID-19. Some have asked if ivermectin is a better option than taking a COVID-19 vaccine.
Using existing medications in new ways, called drug repurposing, could be a quick route to finding new ways to treat or prevent COVID-19. However, before this can happen and before doctors would be comfortable using it with their patients, there needs to be sufficient scientific evidence to show it is both safe and effective.
So far, scientific evidence is very limited about using ivermectin to prevent or treat COVID-19. Some very preliminary studies have shown some promising results, but others have found it has no beneficial effect.
For this reason, experts recommend only using ivermectin to try to prevent or treat COVID-19 should as part of a clinical trial. Several trials are underway, and physicians will watch for results.
Other existing drugs have also been studied for repurposing or for extending their use to prevent or treat COVID-19. Some, like the anti-malaria drug hydroxychloroquine, have been found not to have any benefit. Others, such as the corticosteroid called dexamethasone, has been found to have a benefit and can now be used in the treatment of COVID-19 in hospitalized patients requiring oxygen.
It is important to note that taking ivermectin in large doses can be dangerous and can lead to overdoses. This can cause nausea, vomiting, diarrhea, low blood pressure, allergic reactions, dizziness, balance issues, seizures, coma and even death.
It’s also important to note that ivermectin for animals is not intended for human consumption. It is a different preparation. Some reports have emerged about animal ivermectin being sold to people as a COVID-19 medication.
- Drug treatments for covid-19: living systematic review and network meta-analysis (British Medical Journal)
- COVID-19 treatments (BC Centre for disease Control)
- Prophylaxis against covid-19: living systematic review and network meta-analysis (British Medical Journal)
- Misleading clinical evidence and systematic reviews on ivermectin for COVID-19 (British Medical Journal)
- World Health Organization Ivermectin Advisory
- Rapid Evidence Review on Ivermectin (Alberta Health Services)
- Ivermectin and COVID-19 (U.S. Federal Drug Administration)