Oxford University has launched a clinical trial to test whether Ivermectin works in treating Coronavirus Disease.
The drug is typically used to treat diseases caused by parasite infections, including onchocerciasis or ‘river blindness’ from the nematode worm Onchocerca volvulus.
But the use of Ivermectin for Covid treatment is controversial, and the European Medicines Agency (EMA) advises against its use outside randomized clinical trials.
Although it’s promoted as a cure for Covid in some countries, such as Brazil, most scientific studies on its effectiveness have involved poorly-controlled experiments or a small number of participants. There’s little evidence the drug definitely works.
Research has shown that Ivermectin can kill the SARS-CoV-2 coronavirus in lab-grown cells and in living mice (but only at high doses that can be toxic to humans), while observational studies of people already taking the drug suggest it might be effective for Covid — but those studies don’t control for confounding factors such as when people deliberately choose a medicine, which leads to problems like the placebo effect.
Oxford’s large-scale trial will involve giving Ivermectin to elderly people and adults with an underlying health condition. By comparing those participants to patients who receive standard care from the UK’s National Health Service (NHS), the study aims to reveal whether the drug helps keep people out of hospital.
Like other well-known drugs, including hydroxychloroquine and Remdesivir, people are currently using Ivermectin for purposes that aren’t specified on the drug’s label. Such off-label use is a waste of money if the drug isn’t effective, and potentially harmful if someone uses that drug instead of one that’s been proven to work.
The Oxford study is part of a wider project called PRINCIPLE (Platform for randomised trial of treatments in the community for epidemic and pandemic illnesses), which is trying to find treatments for Covid-19 from home by recruiting participants through its website and patients from doctors’ practices.
Within a few months, the new study could finally prove whether or not Ivermectin is effective for treating Covid.