Medical miracle or notorious lynchpin of misinformation?
Nov 21 2022
Ivermectin has been hailed as a “wonder drug” and, according to the UNESCO World Science Report, a critical component of “one of the most triumphant public health campaigns ever waged in the developing world.”
However, since the onset of the COVID-19 pandemic, the National Institutes of Health (NIH) and affiliated health authorities have vociferously recommended against ivermectin as a potential treatment for the virus.
Though the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) has approved ivermectin for human use in treating conditions caused by parasites, it has also insisted that ivermectin “has not been shown to be safe or effective” when it comes to treating COVID-19.
In a social media message that has gone viral, the FDA labeled it as a drug for horses and not fit for human consumption: “You are not a horse. You are not a cow. Seriously, y’all. Stop it.”
The post made headlines and was one of the FDA’s most successful social media campaigns. Yet, research findings seem to contradict the public health organization’s recommendations.
A growing body of research shows that ivermectin is an essential treatment for COVID-19. Many doctors have praised the drug for its broad yet effective antiparasitic, antiviral, antibacterial, anti-inflammatory, anti-cancer, and autophagic properties.
Ivermectin: Antiparasitic Beginnings
Ivermectin made its name through its significant benefits in treating parasitic infections.
In 1973, Satoshi Omura and William C. Campbell, working with the Kitasato Institute in Tokyo, found an unusual type of Streptomyces bacteria in Japanese soil near a golf course.
In laboratory studies, Omura and Campbell discovered that this Streptomyces bacteria could cure mice infected with the roundworm Heligmosomoides polygyrus. Campbell isolated the bacteria’s active compounds, naming them avermectins, and the bacteria was thus called S. avermitilis.
Despite decades of searching worldwide, researchers have yet to find another microorganism that can produce avermectin.
It was changing one of the bonds of avermectin through a chemical process that produced ivermectin, which was proven successful in treating onchocerciasis and lymphatic filariasis, both of which are debilitating diseases common in the developing world.
Ivermectin and COVID-19
Analyses of studies on ivermectin have found it effective as a prevention, a treatment for acute COVID-19, and in advanced stages of infection by the virus.
1. Ivermectin as a Prophylaxis
Prophylaxis intervenes in the first phases of COVID-19 infection, which is mainly asymptomatic, when the virus replicates to increase its viral load—symptom onset occurs after the viral load peaks.
Ivermectin can be effective in the early stages of infection. Outside the cells, ivermectin can attach to parts of the virus, immobilizing it and preventing it from entering and infecting human cells.
Ivermectin can also enter the cell to prevent the virus from replicating. SARS-CoV-2 needs cell replication machinery to make more of the virus; ivermectin attaches and blocks a protein critical to this process, preventing viral production.
Additionally, ivermectin can be absorbed from the skin and stored in fat cells for a long time.
“Because it’s lipid soluble, it is stored and slowly released, [so] once you’ve taken a prophylactic dose, and I think it’s like the cumulative dose of about 400mg, that your risk of getting COVID is close to zero and you can actually stop it for a while,” said Dr. Paul Marik, a widely published critical care specialist with 500 peer-reviewed papers to his name, in an interview with The Epoch Times.
In the abstract, the authors concluded that taking ivermectin had “a posterior probability of benefit of .91,” this is another way of writing that ivermectin had a 91 percent probability of being more beneficial than placebo.
The percent of probability is below 95 percent, making the benefit of ivermectin insignificant.
Slides from the ACTIV-6 presentation on a statistically significant secondary endpoint findings.
Another secondary endpoint showed that by day 14, ivermectin already had a statistically significant 27 percent benefit with 98 percent probability of efficacy.
The FDA and NIH did not respond for comments by press time.
Marina Zhang is based in New York and covers health and science. Contact her at marina.zhang.