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Can Ivermectin Help to Prevent or Treat Covid-19?

Recently, there’s been a lot of discussions – extending even to Parliamentary discussions – about ivermectin and its effectiveness in helping with the Covid-19 outbreak across the nation.

But before we get into the specifics of using ivermectin to treat the surge of coronavirus cases, we first need to understand what it is.

Ivermectin belongs to a class of drugs known as anthelmintics: a category of anti-parasitic medicines. The drug was created in the 1970s by Satoshi Ömura and William Campbell to ward off parasitic worms in food livestock.

It was then commonly used in the 1980s for this purpose before being extended to animals, particularly from the equine family. Finally, after some urging, ivermectin was approved for the treatment of river blindness in humans: a tropical skin disease caused by a parasitic filarial worm that breeds in fast-flowing rivers – and with great effectiveness.

Since then it’s been widely available, sold over-the-counter to treat common parasitic infestations or conditions such as head lice, scabies, roundworm infections and more in humans and animals. Since it’s medicinal in nature, ivermectin’s side effects are generally mild, ranging from headaches and dizziness to nausea or diarrhoea, and even mild skin rashes.

With that in mind, why are people turning to ivermectin as an answer in treating a severe acute respiratory infection, or as we know it – Covid-19?

A Timeline of Ivermectin and Covid-19

Using ivermectin as a potential treatment came into focus in April 2020. The United States Food and Drugs Administration (FDA) were forced to issue a statement against ivermectin’s use of veterinary preparations in human patients infected by the coronavirus.

This arose because there was a research paper published in early 2020 suggesting the efficacy of using ivermectin in Covid-19 treatment, citing its successful suppression of the virus strain causing the coronavirus. Several health facilities, such as Monash University, Australia, conducted trials and reported that a single ivermectin dose could stop the Covid-19 virus from growing in cell culture within 48 hours.

To date, however, the drug is not approved by the World Health Organization (WHO) as a method of Covid-19 treatment. As of March 2021, WHO has advised that ivermectin only be used in clinical trials rather than as a genuine pandemic treatment plan.

On the local front, ivermectin trials were initiated in June at selected ministry hospitals, with an anticipated conclusion to be reached by September.

In Malaysia, an official press statement was released in May 2021 by the health director-general Dr. Noor Hisham. He expressly advised against members of the public taking ivermectin to treat and prevent Covid-19.

In July, the Health Ministry then revealed it was currently studying ivermectin’s effectiveness and potential side effects by testing them on confirmed cases of Covid-19. These were for patients classed within the Category Three (patients with lung infections) to Category Five (critical with multiple organ complications) range.

With the current spread of Covid-19 surging, the Health Ministry further posted in July that ivermectin would be allowed to be used on an off-label basis with close supervision by certified doctors.

However, citizens are still required to follow mandatory measures put in place – from following testing guidelines to physical distancing and wearing masks with a 95% to 98% particulate matter filtration when out in public.

Should I Use Ivermectin?

Though there have been groups that seek to affirm the effectiveness of the drug, purely depending on ivermectin to curb Covid-19 is not recommended. Here are some reasons why:

1. Insufficient evidence to support how it helps confirmed Covid-19 cases

Currently, the drug is not approved for use against Covid-19 by any official health sources. This was further backed by the European Medicines Agency and centers of disease control, whose concern revolve around the lack of data backing ivermectin as a reliable counter against the coronavirus.

2. Little evidence about the safety of ivermectin at high doses

Ivermectin is generally safe for human consumption to combat parasites, at its approved dosage quantities. However, this might not be the amount required to treat Covid-19. As ivermectin was developed specifically for overcoming parasitic infestation, overdosage was rarely tested, resulting in uncertainty as to how bodies might react with higher doses of ivermectin than necessary.

3. Leading to complacency during the Covid-19 pandemic

Believing that ivermectin could help prevent Covid-19 could also easily lead to a sense of misplaced confidence and less stringent observance of SOPs that should be followed to continue curbing the spread of Covid-19.

Whether ivermectin is proven to be effective, it’s essential to remember the vital steps such as:

  • Washing your hands frequently with soap and water, especially before touching your face; alternatively, sanitize your hands often, particularly when out in public.

  • Maintaining a distance of a minimum of 1 meter from others when outside to minimise the spread of coronavirus.

  • Wearing high-quality surgical masks or 5-ply respirators when out and about, and dispose of them properly to avoid contamination and for general hygiene.

For maximum hygiene assurance, feel free to check out NOVID’s range of top-tier 4-ply disposable surgical masks and N95 disposable respirators – all of which come individually packaged and sterilised for extra safety.

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