Your Covid-19 questions answered

Can I take ivermectin to prevent or treat Covid-19?

06 October 2021 - 07:00
Ivermectin is an anti-parasitic medicine that is being studied across the globe as a possible agent against Covid-19.
Ivermectin is an anti-parasitic medicine that is being studied across the globe as a possible agent against Covid-19.
Image: SUPPLIED

The controversy around using ivermectin for the prevention or treatment of Covid-19 in humans continues to make headlines.

Ivermectin is an anti-parasitic medicine that is being studied across the globe as a possible agent against Covid-19, and in SA is registered for veterinary use. 

How is ivermectin used?

According to the US Food and Drug Administration (FDA), ivermectin is approved to treat people with intestinal strongyloidiasis and onchocerciasis, two conditions caused by parasitic worms. Some topical forms of ivermectin are approved to treat external parasites like head lice and for skin conditions such as rosacea. 

Some forms of animal ivermectin are approved to prevent heart worm disease and to treat certain internal and external parasites. These are different products from the ones for people, and safe only when used in animals as prescribed.

Can I take ivermectin to prevent or treat Covid-19?

Speaking to Sunday Times, Prof Helen Rees, who chairs the board of SA Health Products Regulatory Authority (Sahpra), said there is no conclusive evidence that ivermectin can kill a virus in a human being. 

She said early studies showed inconsistency when testing against Covid-19.

“Unfortunately, despite looking long and hard at the data conducted by health bodies, including Sahpra, FDA and Wealth Health Organisation, among others, we could not see the data that would allow us to say ivermectin is effective for prevention or treatment,” said Rees.

Last year, Sahpra prohibited the drug for human consumption after it was promoted on several social media platforms as having “cured” people of Covid-19.

The country’s top vaccinologists, scientists and infectious diseases experts also warned against the “irresponsible social media hype around the use of ivermectin” to treat Covid-19 until it was officially approved for use in humans in the country.

Can ivermectin be toxic for humans?

Earlier this year, former chair of the ministerial advisory committee (MAC) Prof Salim Abdool Karim told Jacaranda FM that the amount of ivermectin needed to kill Covid-19 was toxic to humans.

Abdool Karim said there was no compelling case for ivermectin to be used as a Covid-19 treatment.

“The studies are of really poor quality. When you look at the scientific evidence, there’s no compelling case for this. The doctor, Dr Andrew Hill, who did the overall analysis also said the evidence isn’t sufficiently robust to recommend its use,” he said.

“It must be clearly stated that ivermectin does not kill the virus at dosages humans can tolerate. The amount of drug needed to kill the virus is toxic to humans. Whatever it is doing, it is not killing the virus.”


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