Should I treat my patient with Covid-19 with ivermectin?

Despite its potential antiviral activity,1 there is insufficient data at this time to recommend either for or against the use of ivermectin for the treatment of Covid-19, per NIH Covid-19 guidelines.2 This conclusion is based on lack of robust, adequately powered and designed clinical trials.The Infectious Diseases Society of America (IDSA) recommends against its use in ambulatory or hospitalized patients with Covid-19 (mild to moderate or severe, respectively) except in clinical trials.

Although some studies (published or preprint) have reported benefits of ivermectin (eg, shorter time to resolution of disease or viral clearance, greater reduction in inflammatory markers, and lower mortality rates) in Covid-19, others have found either no benefit or worsening of disease with ivermectin therapy.2-6

Unfortunately, methodological problems have plagued many of these studies.1 For example, a randomized-controlled preprint study from Egypt reported clinical improvement and decreased mortality in Covid-19 patients treated with ivermectin.  Noteworthy,  the ivermectin group also received hydroxychloroquine plus a “standard therapy”, defined in the study as azithromycin, vitamin C, zinc, lactoferrin and acetylcysteine.This preprint article has since been withdrawn due to allegations of plagiarism and data manipulation, including duplicate patient records and patients whose records indicated that they had died before the study’s start date (Nature, 12 Aug 2021).

A retrospective study from Bangladesh involving hospitalized patients with Covid-19,  reported lower mortality in those receiving only 1 dose of ivermectin (12 mg) within 24 h of admission.  However, 60% of the non-ivermectin group also received antibiotics, often for undefined “secondary infection” (vs 15% of ivermectin group)4, making it difficult to interpret the results.

In contrast, a randomized double-blind trial in mild Covid-19 failed to find any improvement in time to resolution of symptoms  after a 5-day course of Ivermectin. In a retrospective preprint study from Peru found significantly higher rates of death and/or ICU transfer among hospitalized patients treated with ivermectin or hydroxychloroquine+azithromycin.7

The plausibility of studies supporting treatment of Covid-19 with ivermectin has been further questioned because, despite its apparent antiviral activity in vitro,1 pharmacokinetic and pharmacodynamic studies suggest that doses up to 100 times higher than those approved for use in humans would be needed to achieve potentially effective plasma concentrations.2,8

Bonus Pearl: Did you know that ivermectin enhances the activity of GABA receptors, resulting in paralysis of somatic muscles, poor pharyngeal function and starvation of parasites and worms? 9 Fortunately, ivermectin’s affinity for parasite is 100 times more than for brain of mammals because of the blood brain barrier.

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  1. Lehrer S, Rheinstein PH. Ivermectin docks to the SARS-CoV-2 spike receptor-binding domain attached to ACE2. In vivo 2020;34:3023-6.
  2. NIH. The Covid-19 treatment guidelines panel’s statement on the use of ivermectin for the treatment of COVID-19. Last updated Jan 14, 2021. Accessed January 18, 2021.
  3. Elgazzar A, Hany B, Abo Youssef S, et al. Efficacy and safety of ivermectin for treatment and prophylaxis of COVID-19 pandemic. Research Square Preprint 2020.
  4. Ahmed S, karim MM, Ross AG, et al. A five-day course of ivermectin for the treatment of COVID-19 may reduce the duration of illness. International J Infect Dis 2021;103:214-16.
  5. Soto-Becerra P, Culquichicon C, Hurtado-Roca Y, et al. Real-world effectiveness of hydroxychloroquine, azithromycin, and ivermectin among hospitalized COVID-19 patients: results of a target trial emulation using observational data from a nationwide healthcare system in Peru. MedRxive 2020.
  6. Chachar AZ, Khan KA, Asif M, et al. Effectiveness of ivermetctin in SARS-CoV-1/COVID-19 patients. International J Sciences 2020; 9:31-35.
  7. Lopez-Medina E, Lopez P, Hurtado IC, et al. Effect of ivermectin on time to resolutoin of symptoms among adults with mild COVID-19. JAMA 202;325:1426-35.
  8. Chaccour C, hammann F, Ramon-Garcia S, et al. Ivermectin and COVID-19: Keeping rigor in times of urgency. Am J Trop med hyg 2020;102:1156-7.  
  9. Kaur H, Shekhar N, Sharma S, et al. Ivermectin as a potential drug for treatment of COVID-19:an in-sync review with clinical and computational attributes. Pharmacological Reports. Published online January 3, 2021. Great review

Disclosures: The listed questions and answers are solely the responsibility of the author and do not necessarily represent the official views of Mercy Hospital-St. Louis or its affiliate healthcare centers. Although every effort has been made to provide accurate information, the author is far from being perfect. The reader is urged to verify the content of the material with other sources as deemed appropriate and exercise clinical judgment in the interpretation and application of the information provided herein. No responsibility for an adverse outcome or guarantees for a favorable clinical result is assumed by the author. Thank you!

Should I treat my patient with Covid-19 with ivermectin?

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