A health worker shows a box containing a bottle of Ivermectin, a medicine authorized by the National Institute for Food and Drug Surveillance (INVIMA) to treat patients with mild, asymptomatic or suspicious COVID-19, as part of a study of the Center for Paediatric Infectious Diseases Studies, in Cali, Colombia, on July 21, 2020. ( AFP / Luis ROBAYO)

Misleading posts touting ivermectin as Covid-19 treatment distort results of preliminary Australian study

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Multiple online posts have shared a claim that a study conducted by Australian researchers conclusively showed the antiparasitic drug ivermectin is an effective treatment for Covid-19. But these posts are misleading: the study findings are preliminary and research is still ongoing as of June 29, 2021; health experts warn there is no conclusive evidence showing ivermectin is effective against Covid-19.

“Ivermectin can kill COVID-19 within 48 hours, Monash University study finds,” reads a screenshot shared on Instagram here on June 22, 2021.


 

A screenshot of the misleading post taken on June 23, 2021

Ivermectin is a medication that is used to treat parasitic infections. It has been touted as a purported “miracle drug” against Covid-19 despite lack of credible scientific evidence, AFP reported here.

Monash University is a research university based in Melbourne, Australia.

Identical posts touting ivermectin have also been shared here, here and here on Facebook. 

Comments to these posts indicate people were misled and thought the study had conclusively shown ivermectin is an effective treatment for Covid-19.

“It’s safe, available and been used for decades,” one social media user wrote.

“Imagine how many people could have survived,” said another.

But these posts are misleading.

‘In vitro’ study

The study findings are preliminary and not conclusive proof of ivermectin’s effectiveness against Covid-19.

AFP found the study was published here in the medical journal Antiviral Research on April 3, 2020.

The study reads in part: “Ivermectin is an inhibitor of the COVID-19 causative virus (SARS-CoV-2) in vitro… Ivermectin therefore warrants further investigation for possible benefits in humans.”

“In vitro” means the study was conducted outside the living body and in an artificial environment. 

This Monash University press release announcing the study results also states in part: “Whilst shown to be effective in the lab environment, Ivermectin cannot be used in humans for COVID-19 until further testing and clinical trials have been completed to establish the effectiveness of the drug at levels safe for human dosing.

“The potential use of Ivermectin to combat COVID-19 remains unproven, and depends on pre-clinical testing and clinical trials to progress the work.”

A Monash University spokesperson confirmed that research is ongoing.

“Researchers continue to work on ivermectin (and other approaches) in preclinical and clinical settings,” the spokesperson told AFP on June 29, 2021.

Insufficient evidence

Credible health experts maintain there is no conclusive evidence showing ivermectin is effective against Covid-19.

This advisory from Australia’s Department of Health on June 1, 2021 states in part: “There is currently insufficient evidence to support the safe and effective use of ivermectin, doxycycline and zinc (either separately, or in combination) for the prevention or treatment of COVID-19.

“More robust, well-designed clinical trials are needed before they could be considered an appropriate treatment option.”

The World Health Organization (WHO) has earlier advised here on March 31, 2021 that ivermectin only be used to treat Covid-19 within clinical trials.

"The current evidence on the use of ivermectin to treat COVID-19 patients is inconclusive. Until more data is available, WHO recommends that the drug only be used within clinical trials," says WHO.