An anti-parasitic drug called ivermectin is facing shortages in Canada amid unproven claims that it could be used to treat COVID-19 — and confusion about the drug has raised many questions.
Ivermectin was developed in the 1970s, and is used to treat parasites, such as intestinal worms or lice, in animals and humans.
But early studies exploring its efficacy as an antiviral drug that could be used to treat COVID-19 have been used to feed misinformation — despite being considered low-quality and heavily debunked by federal health agencies.
Watch | Feed shops are seeing demand for ivermectin despite health warnings:
“The body of evidence we have now … is that it is ineffective in the context of COVID – either for prevention or for treatment. And the evidence simply does not support it,” Tim Caulfield, professor and Canada Chair for Research in Health Law and Policy at the University of Alberta, Monday on CNN. BBC Homestretch.
“[But] We are seeing an increase in the popularity of medications, and also, there is an increase in toxicity and an increase in prescriptions. It’s a really strange phenomenon.”
So, what is ivermectin and how is it used? Could it help treat COVID-19? And why do federal agencies like Health Canada and the US Food and Drug Administration warn people not to take it?
Here are answers to some common questions about ivermectin.
When is ivermectin safe for human use?
Ivermectin is LIKELY SAFE for human use when prescribed and dosed by a healthcare professional to treat parasitic infections.
Dosage is based on the patient’s weight, medical conditions, and response to the drug.
The form of the drug used on humans has won a Nobel Prize, has improved the health of millions and helped eradicate diseases such as river blindness in many countries.
It’s on the World Health Organization’s List of Essential Medicines because it’s inexpensive and effective – and has been shown to be lifesaving for treating some diseases caused by parasites.
The human form of ivermectin can also pose risks. Even for approved uses, ivermectin can interact with other medications or be unsuitable for people with certain health conditions – which is why it’s best used with a doctor’s prescription.
How is ivermectin used to treat livestock different?
Ivermectin products are dosed for veterinary use for large animals, such as horses or cows, that weigh significantly more than humans. For example, a horse can weigh between 380 and 1,000 kilograms.
This means that ivermectin products for animals have a higher concentrated dose than ivermectin products for people, says Health Canada.
Some veterinary medicines may also contain different proportions of medicine than human medicines and may undergo different tests.
So, what can happen if you take ivermectin incorrectly?
Health Canada says the veterinary version of ivermectin, especially at high doses, can be dangerous to humans.
It may cause serious health problems such as vomiting, diarrhea, low blood pressure, allergic reactions, dizziness, seizures, coma, and even death.
Health Canada said: “Canadians should never consume animal health products due to the potential serious health risks they pose.”
In the United States, the Centers for Disease Control warned the public after an increase in calls to poison centers with reports of a serious illness caused by the drug.
You are not a horse, you are not a cow. Seriously, all of you. Stop it. https://t.co/TWb75xYEY4
last week , US Food and Drug Administration The FDA has also reissued warnings about ivermectin in response to the growing volume of misinformation on social media, along with reports of people becoming poisoned and needing hospitalization after taking it.
And a tweet from the FDA read: “You’re not a horse. You’re not a cow. Seriously, you. Stop it.”
Can ivermectin be used to treat COVID-19?
First of all, ivermectin is used to treat parasites. COVID-19 is caused by a virus.
Some early studies seemed promising for its use as an antiviral as well as an antiparasitic — with the hope that another study would prove that it prevents the growth of the new coronavirus in human cells and improves patient outcomes.
These results have not been reached in larger, higher-quality studies, which have yet to prove whether ivermectin can slow or prevent the new coronavirus from growing in human cells.
After reports that some people were taking the veterinary form of the drug for livestock, Health Canada issued a consultant On Tuesday people are being asked not to take medication to treat COVID-19.
# Administrative: #Canadians Veterinary products should never be consumed due to the potential serious risks to health. Ivermectin, an antiparasitic agent, has not been approved for use #covid19 It can cause serious health problems. https://t.co/iOBtKgBIfV
“There is no evidence that ivermectin is present in either of them [the human or veterinary] The preparation is safe or effective when used for these purposes.”
Health Canada says it is closely monitoring all potential treatments for COVID-19, including ivermectin.
“In the event a manufacturer submits to Health Canada regarding the use of ivermectin to prevent or treat COVID-19, Health Canada will conduct a scientific evaluation of the evidence to determine the drug’s quality, safety and efficacy,” the agency said.
But so far, ivermectin has only been approved to treat parasites in Canada — not Covid disease.
Complete list of Medicines and vaccines Licensed to treat or prevent COVID-19 is available on the Health Canada website.
But I have read or heard about studies that have indicated that it is effective in treating COVID-19. What gives?
Dr. Lenora Sachsinger, an infectious disease specialist at the University of Alberta, told CBC News that early studies of using ivermectin as either a treatment for COVID-19 or prevention consisted of low-quality data.
Review published in April in the Cochrane Database of Systematic Reviews It is concluded that the efficacy and safety of ivermectin for the treatment or prevention of COVID‐19 has not been established.
“Completed studies are small and few are considered to be of high quality. There are several studies in progress that may produce clearer answers in review updates. In general, the reliable evidence available does not support the use of ivermectin for the treatment or prevention of COVID-19 out of the well. Designated randomized trials” identified “.
One problem was that in some of the initial positive reports, patients were receiving multiple medications, so the effect of ivermectin could not be analyzed. Another was that extremely high doses that showed promising results in test tubes did not translate to humans.
Some studies or systematic reviews also consist of small sample sizes.
Watch | Horse medication is ineffective against COVID-19, says specialist:
The Lancet . medical journal called for further study on the effectiveness of ivermectin for reducing the viral load of SARS-CoV-2 or improving recovery — but he said no drug can replace preventive public health policies and widespread testing for COVID.
Merck, the manufacturer of ivermectin, has confirmed that its scientists have found No scientific basis for the efficacy of ivermectin against COVID-19, also indicating a lack of safety data in most studies.
Alberta Health Services says its scientific advisory group has conducted a review to explore the use of ivermectin, but the drug is not approved to treat COVID-19 in the province.
It is advised not to take ivermectin as a treatment for COVID-19 outside of clinical trials.
So why has ivermectin been suggested as a treatment when it hasn’t been proven?
It began in November 2020, when a study was published in Egypt indicating that ivermectin could improve outcomes for COVID-19 patients.
It was the largest study in favor of the drug – but it was this summer I retreated After concerns about data fabrication, plagiarism and ethical violations.
Before it was undone, doctors paid in some countries To start using the drug only to see what will happen, because it is readily available and inexpensive.
The study that was pulled also caused quite a stir, especially with one right-wing group known to spread misleading medical information called America’s doctors are on the front lines, who was charging patients for consultations to access ivermectin.
In December 2020, Dr. Pierre Curie, who has been an outspoken advocate of ivermectin, called it a miracle drug before a US Senate hearing on treatments for COVID-19. Corey has since said sorry using this hyperbolic term.
An article on the use of ivermectin in the treatment of COVID, written by the COVID-19 Critical Care Front Line Alliance, of which Korea is among its members, was It was removed from the magazine Frontiers in Pharmacology after editors determined that it contained baseless claims and violated its editorial policies.
But all this did not prevent a number of politicians and media figures from promoting the drug as a treatment, prevention or possible treatment.
What is the bottom line?
Ivermectin has not been shown to be effective in treating COVID-19, and it can be dangerous when taken in high doses or without guidance from a healthcare professional.