The World Health Organization (WHO) on Tuesday issued a warning against the general use of 'ivermectin' for the treatment of COVID-19 patients. Ivermectin is an oral medicine normally used to treat infections caused by some parasitic worms.
"Safety and efficacy are important when using any drug for a new indication. WHO recommends against use of ivermectin for COVID-19 except within clinical trials," Dr Soumya Swaminathan, WHO’s chief scientist, said in a tweet.
A similar warning has also been issued by German pharmaceutical giant Merck. Dr Swaminathan attached the statement of the company to her tweet. Merck said its scientists continue to "carefully examine findings of all available and emerging studies of ivermectin for treatment of COVID-19".
"To-date, our analysis has identified: No scientific basis for a potential therapeutic effect against COVID-19 from pre-clinical studies; No meaningful evidence for clinical activity or efficacy in patients with COVID-19 disease, and; A concerning lack of safety data in the majority of studies," the Merck statement said.
The WHO had issued a similar warning against ivermectin in March this year when it said there is very low certainty of evidence of the drug’s effect on mortality or hospital admission of Covid patients.
"We currently lack persuasive evidence of a mechanism of action for 'ivermectin' in COVID-19, and any observed clinical benefit would be unexplained," the WHO had said.
Dr Swaminathan's tweet on Tuesday comes a day after the Goa government approved the use of ivermectin as preventive treatment for all adults against the COVID-19 disease.
Goa Health Minister Vishwajit Rane said the state had approved the drug after expert panels from the United Kingdom, Italy, Spain and Japan found a "statistically significant reduction in mortality, time to recovery, and viral clearance in COVID-19 patients treated with ivermectin.”
Last month the Union Health Ministry, while issuing revised guidelines for home isolation of asymptomatic Covid cases, had also listed ivermectin as a medicine to control fevers.
There has been a raging debate over the efficacy of ivermectin, which is approved – in specific doses – for infections caused by some parasitic worms. THe WHO statement is expected to clear the air on the issue.
It is not, at this stage, viewed as an antiviral drug. The United States' Food and Drug Administration has also stressed that ivermectin is not approved for COVID-19 treatment. There are, however, some studies that suggest the opposite.
However, a review of available data published in the May-June issue of the American Journal of Therapeutics states that ivermectin can help end the pandemic.
"We conducted the most comprehensive review of the available data on ivermectin," Pierre Kory, President and Chief Medical Officer of the Front Line COVID-19 Critical Care Alliance (FLCCC) – a group of medical and scientific experts that led the study – said.
The authors have claimed a large and statistically significant reduction in mortality, time to recovery, and viral clearance in COVID-19 patients treated with ivermectin.
Meanwhile, India on Tuesday reported over 3.2 lakh new coronavirus cases and 3,876 deaths in the past 24 hours. The number of active cases is now over 37.15 lakh.