MANILA - The supposed effectivity of anti-parasitic drug ivermectin in treating COVID-19 is not backed by data, an infectious disease expert said Friday, as several groups continue to advocate for its use.
"Ivermectin is very popular in South America where it is used for worms. A lot of countries started it using it out of desperation. Clearly, the controlled data, the data studies that are coming out really don't show that it's working," Dr. Edsel Salvana told ANC.
"Early data showed that maybe it works in a Petri dish, maybe it works in certain subsets of patients, but when they did the big clinical trials with proper controls for any kind of bias, it turns out it doesn't work," he added.
Despite previous warning by international health organizations, the Food and Drug Administration has granted an undisclosed hospital a compassionate use permit of ivermectin as COVID-19 treatment.
Currently, the registered Ivermectin products in the country for human use are in topical formulations under prescription use only, the health regulator earlier said. This is used for the treatment of external parasites such as head lice and skin conditions such as rosacea.
The registered oral and intravenous preparations of Ivermectin are veterinary products, which are approved for use in animals for the prevention of heartworm disease and treatment of internal and external parasites in certain animal species, according to an advisory the FDA issued last month.
Salvana, a member of the technical advisory group that advises the Department of Health (DOH), cautioned against using ivermectin citing potential side effects.
"The supposed anti-viral dose of ivermectin is about 5 times or higher that. So, I'm really concerned as a doctor if there will be toxic side effects because we do know that there are neurologic side effects of ivermectin if taken at higher dose or even in usual doses," he said.
The health expert also lamented that non-medical professionals were promoting the drug despite a lack of data demonstrating its benefits.
"Unfortunately, we also have, aside from a viral pandemic, we have a pandemic of misinformation where everybody thinks they can read journals, read the science when they're not properly trained to do so," he said.
"This is something we called epistemic trespassing where experts in some field feel that they can competently talk about something that's not in their field and that's really dangerous," he added.
The World Health Organization has warned against the use of ivermectin in patients with COVID-19 except for clinical trials because of inconclusive evidence.
The UN health agency's recommendation followed the European Medicines Agency's warning against the drug. The US Food and Drug Administration has also said it was not recommended for COVID-19 treatment.
The Department of Health also said a systematic review of 6 randomized controlled trials showed that ivermectin did not significantly reduce the risk of mortality and duration of hospitalization among COVID-19 cases.