A WHO panel has declared that the current evidence on the use of ivermectin to treat COVID-19 patients is inconclusive. Instead, the WHO says until more data is available, the drug only is used within clinical trials.
Ivermectin is a broad-spectrum anti-parasitic agent, included in WHO essential medicines list for several parasitic diseases. It is used in the treatment of onchocerciasis (river blindness), strongyloidiasis and other diseases caused by soil-transmitted helminthiasis. It is also used to treat scabies.
This recommendation, which applies to patients with COVID-19 of any disease severity, is now part of WHO’s guidelines on COVID-19 treatments.
A guideline development group was convened in response to the increased international attention on ivermectin as a potential treatment for COVID-19. This group is an independent, international panel of experts, which includes clinical care experts in multiple specialties and also includes an ethicist and patient-partners.
The group reviewed pooled data from 16 randomized controlled trials (total enrolled 2407), including both inpatients and outpatients with COVID-19.
They determined that the evidence on whether ivermectin reduces mortality, need for mechanical ventilation, need for hospital admission, and time to clinical improvement in COVID-19 patients is of “very low certainty,” due to the small sizes and methodological limitations of available trial data, including a small number of events.
The panel did not look at the use of ivermectin to prevent COVID-19, which is outside of scope of the current guidelines.