Is deworming drug Ivermectin deemed a safe, effective treatment for COVID-19 right now?

People taking drug off-label, prescriptions meant for pets, despite lack of FDA approval

Trust Index.

SAN ANTONIO - – You may have seen posts about the medication Ivermectin on social media. It was also was a topic mentioned during a senate committee hearing.

There’s a question circulating right now around the country: Is the de-worming drug Ivermectin safe and effective to use as a COVID-19 treatment?

We ran the question through our KSAT Trust Index, where our teams consult with doctors, researchers and experts about debated topics like this.

“It’s a de-wormer, so in pets, it’s used a lot. We don’t have as many worm infections in the United States but when people travel to places that are resource-poor, it’s approved for treating worms in people too,” said Dr. Jason Bowling, a hospital epidemiologist at University Hospital who also works with UT Health San Antonio.

Ivermectin is one of the drugs that showed a positive response in labs earlier this year for treating SARS CoV-2, the virus that causes COVID-19.

However, testing in humans has only just begun and the National Institutes for Health and the Food and Drug Administration specifically say it is not yet approved or safe for prevention or treatment of COVID-19.

“I agree with the NIH’s recommendation that it should be done in a trial where they’re really closely monitoring,” Bowling said.

Bowling called Ivermectin promising but is worried to hear doctors are prescribing it off-label, or that some people are even taking drugs prescribed to pets.

“The problem is that if you were to take the level of Ivermectin they use in these plates in the lab, it’s 10 times higher than the dose that’s approved for people,” he said. “Ivermectin is usually well-tolerated, but when people have an inflammatory state like you would with COVID infection, it can potentially cause neuro-toxicity, side effects with your central nervous system. So you’re not going to reach those levels they reached in the lab without having more concerns about side effects.”

Dr. Bowling said without finishing current clinical trials specific to COVID-19, there’s no way to determine safe doses, possible side effects, and of course, effectiveness.

For that reason, combined with lack of FDA approval or emergency use authorization, the statement that ‘Ivermectin is deemed a safe and effective treatment for COVID-19 right now’, is being labeled Not True on our KSAT Trust Index.

If you have a picture, video, post or claim you want us to check out, submit it on the KSAT Trust Index website.

About the Authors:

Courtney Friedman is a KSAT anchor and reporter. She has an ongoing series called Loving in Fear, confronting Bexar County’s domestic violence epidemic. She's also covered Hurricane Harvey, the shootings in Sutherland Springs and Santa Fe, and tornadoes throughout Texas. She’s a California native and proud Longhorn who loves calling SA home.

Dale Keller is senior news photographer at KSAT-12.