Growing evidence from clinical trials raises questions about the clinical benefits of potential wonder drug, ivermectin.
Since the COVID-19 pandemic started last year, ivermectin has dominated headlines as many debated its potential to treat infected patients. With leading pharmaceutical companies focused on developing vaccines, the broad spectrum anti-parasitic drug emerged to be touted as potential miracle drug in the fight against the pandemic, sparking widespread controversy in the process. Following a flurry of unauthorized usage that worried authorities, the South African Health Products Regulatory Authority moved to approve compassionate use of the anti-parasitic drug earlier in the year to enable the collection of data in a controlled setting. In an address to parliament's portfolio committee on health last month, the regulator also argued there was no conclusive evidence from studies at present that showed the drug had any clinical benefits against COVID-19.
Last month, results from an 501 patient-strong Argentinian clinical trial which randomized patients in a 1:1 ratio found no statistically significant benefit from ivermectin preventing hospitalisation of patients with COVID-19 in comparison to a placebo. Its findings are consistent with those from a Columbian trial that randomized 476 patients and which was published in the Journal of the American Medical Association in March. The trial also found no statistically significant difference between ivermectin and a placebo. In June, ivermectin was also added to a large clinical trial called PRINCIPLE conducted by the University of Oxford in the UK for the treatment of COVID-19. PRINCIPLE is designed to assess potential COVID-19 therapies for non-hospitalised patients, including at-home recovery, who are at higher risk of progressing to serious illness.