Ivermectin does not prevent severe COVID-19 illness, study finds

A new study revealed that ivermectin, an anti-parasite drug, does not prevent severe COVID-19 symptoms.

The study was published in the journal JAMA Internal Medicine Friday.

For the study, Malaysian researchers enrolled 490 patients with mild to moderate illness at 20 hospitals and a COVID-19 quarantine center in Malaysia. The study took place from May 31 to October 25, 2021.

All patients received standard care, but half the patients were treated with ivermectin for five days. 

RELATED: Ohio hospital ordered to treat COVID-19 patient with ivermectin despite FDA warning

According to the study, 21.6% of the patients given ivermectin developed a severe illness compared to 17.3% of those who received only standard care and also developed a severe illness, the researchers said.

Severe illness was defined as patients who needed supplemental oxygen. 

"In this randomized clinical trial of high-risk patients with mild to moderate COVID-19, ivermectin treatment during early illness did not prevent progression to severe disease," the study’s authors noted.

At least two dozen lawsuits have been filed around the U.S., many in recent weeks, by people seeking to force hospitals to give their COVID-stricken loved ones ivermectin, a drug for parasites that has been promoted by conservative commentators as a treatment despite a lack of conclusive evidence that it helps people with the virus.

RELATED: CDC sees ‘rapid increase’ of severe illnesses from ivermectin use for COVID-19

Interest in the drug started rising toward the end of last year and the beginning of this one, when studies — some later withdrawn, in other countries — seemed to suggest ivermectin had some potential and it became a hot topic of conversation among conservatives on social media.

The lawsuits, several of them filed by the same western New York lawyer, cover similar ground. The families have gotten prescriptions for ivermectin, but hospitals have refused to use it on their loved ones, who are often on ventilators and facing death.

There has been a mix of results in state courts. Some judges have refused to order hospitals to give ivermectin. Others have ordered medical providers to give the medication, despite concerns it could be harmful.

RELATED: 'Stop it': FDA warns ivermectin is not a COVID-19 treatment drug

Ivermectin is approved by the Food and Drug Administration to treat infections of roundworms, lice and other tiny parasites in humans. The FDA has tried to debunk claims that animal-strength versions of the drug can help fight COVID-19, warning that taking it in large doses can cause nausea, vomiting, diarrhea, seizures, delirium and even death.

"You are not a horse. You are not a cow, Seriously, y’all. Stop it," the FDA tweeted on Aug. 21.

According to Reuters, the use of ivermectin to treat COVID-19 is currently being investigated in a UK trial run by the University of Oxford.

The Associated Press contributed to this report. This story was reported from Los Angeles.