Ivermectin: Oxford University to Trial Promising, Easily Available Drug as Early Treatment for COVID-19

The Principle trial at the University of Oxford has selected Ivermectin for inclusion in its study of repurposed drugs for treatment of COVID-19. It will be given to people with Covid symptoms to see if it can keep them out of hospital. The BBC has the story.

The Principle study will compare those given the drug to patients receiving the usual NHS care.

The drug has become controversial after being promoted for use across Latin America and in South Africa, despite being so far unproven.

Previous studies of Ivermectin have generally been small or low quality.

Most commonly used to treat parasitic infections such as river blindness, spread by flies, Ivermectin has also been shown to kill viruses in petri dishes in the lab – although, at much higher doses than would usually be prescribed to people.

Ivermectin has been championed by many doctors and scientists since its apparent effectiveness as a Covid treatment emerged early in April 2020, but has been snubbed by mainstream health bodies for reasons that are unclear, leading some to suspect ulterior motives such as sustaining a vaccine narrative or prioritising newer and more profitable treatments. Merck, which manufactures Ivermectin but also recently signed a $356 million deal to supply the US with a much more expensive, experimental anti-Covid drug, went so far as to issue a statement casting doubt on the drug’s safety, even though its safety profile is well known and mild. Scientists trying to publish studies on the drug found the door being shut in their faces with apparent political motives for the refusal. Finally in May, the American Journal of Therapeutics published a peer-reviewed article by Dr Pierre Kory and colleagues entitled “Review of the Emerging Evidence Demonstrating the Efficacy of Ivermectin in the Prophylaxis and Treatment of COVID-19“. Dr Tess Lawrie and colleagues’ meta-analysis, finding a 62% reduction in risk of death among those infected or at high risk of Covid infection (on moderate-certainty evidence), was published in the same journal last week.

While, in a pandemic, the precautionary principle would seem to recommend authorising the use of safe, repurposed drugs that (small) trials have shown appear to work, health authorities apparently did not agree and said there must be higher quality evidence for Ivermectin before it can be approved. Yet because there is little profit in a cheap, out-of-patent drug these higher quality trials have not been done, leaving the drug still without approval or definitive evaluation over 14 months after its apparent efficacy against COVID-19 was discovered. If it does turn out to be as highly effective as the early studies suggest, this will mean the delay will have been responsible for failing to prevent many thousands of deaths around the world.

Still, better late than never, and credit to Oxford for including it in its study despite the politics around it. The Principle trial should provide the definitive answer as to whether Ivermectin is effective at preventing the progression to serious coronavirus disease when used at an early stage.

People aged 18-64 with an underlying health condition or experiencing breathlessness, and anyone aged 65 or over, can sign up to the Principle trial within 14 days of having Covid symptoms or receiving a positive test.

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