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VERIFY: What is ivermectin and what does FDA think about it as possible COVID-19 treatment?

While some have floated the anti-parasitic drug ivermectin as a possible COVID-19 treatment, the FDA has stressed it shouldn't be used outside of clinical trials.
Credit: Getty Images/iStockphoto

As the search continues for new COVID-19 treatments, health officials have had to issue warnings about certain medications being used before the drugs are approved for treating coronavirus. 

Some people, including several South Florida doctors, recently have pointed to ivermectin, a drug used to treat lice and other parasites, as a possible treatment.

But despite some success in clinical trials, the U.S. Food and Drug Administration has said that people should not take ivermectin to try and prevent or treat COVID-19.


Is ivermectin an approved treatment for COVID-19?


Statements from the FDA and the National Institutes of Health explain that while the drug is approved for other purposes, there needs to be more testing and data from clinical trials for it to be approved as a COVID-19 treatment.


According to MedlinePlus, a health information resource run by a branch of the NIH, ivermectin is an approved medication to treat different types of parasitic infections in humans and animals -- like lice. The FDA explains that it is also used to prevent heartworm disease and other parasitic infections in animals.

The FDA recognizes ivermectin has shown some effectiveness in a laboratory setting but additional testing is needed, as the results from trials are still limited, the agency's site said. 

The NIH online database of clinical trials lists 38 studies around the world that include ivermectin related to possible treating COVID-19. Many of the studies are still recruiting participants or have yet to even start the recruiting process. Only a handful are located in the U.S., according to the database. 

So while ivermectin has shown some promise in a laboratory setting, more studies with more conclusive data are needed before its use in treating COVID-19 can be approved. Additionally, the FDA hasn't issued an emergency use authorization for ivermectin, which allows a drug still undergoing testing to be used outside of clinical trials. 

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And the FDA has issued warnings about using certain kinds of ivermectin.

The FDA issued a warning in April telling people and providers not to use ivermectin designed for animals to treat human patients. The agency said, “people should never take animal drugs, as the FDA has only evaluated their safety and effectiveness in the particular species for which they are labeled. Using these products in humans could cause serious harm in people.”

As of mid-September, the NIH COVID-19 Treatment Guidelines Panel has specifically recommended against the use of ivermectin for the treatment of COVID-19, except in a clinical trial.

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