COVID study: No significant aid from ivermectin, other meds

A new study has found that three drugs, including the antiparasitic ivermectin, had no significant effects in treating low oxygen levels or preventing ER visits, hospitalization or death due to COVID-19.

The research, published Thursday in the New England Journal of Medicine, compared the effectiveness of the Type 2 diabetes medication metformin, low-dose fluvoxamine, which is an antidepressant, and ivermectin as possible treatments against COVID-19 and long-term symptoms.

“None of the three medications that were evaluated prevented the occurrence of hypoxemia, an emergency department visit, hospitalization, or death associated with COVID-19,” the study says.

While the researchers say metformin may offer possible benefits in preventing ER visits, hospitalization and death, the results aren’t definitive without other studies.

Of all three drugs analyzed, ivermectin has received the most attention during the COVID-19 pandemic as a possible treatment for the disease.

While the drug has proven to be an effective antiparasitic medication, with its discoverers sharing a Nobel Prize in 2015, results have been mixed on whether it can treat COVID-19.

Some research has found ivermectin effective in a laboratory setting, but the researchers behind the latest New England Journal of Medicine study point out that some studies involved levels of ivermectin 50 to 100 times those achievable in humans.

After reports that some people were using a veterinary version of ivermectin, Health Canada issued an advisory in August 2021 asking people to not use either the animal or human versions of the drug.

A total of 1,323 adults, all of whom qualified as being either overweight or obese, participated in the recent study.

Participants received two types of pills for either three or 14 days, depending on the drugs.

The pills were randomly assigned to patients in one of six ways: metformin plus fluvoxamine; metformin plus ivermectin; metformin plus a placebo; fluvoxamine and a placebo; ivermectin and a placebo; or two placebos.

The median age of the patients was 46 and 56 per cent were female, of whom 6.1 per cent were pregnant.

Volunteers must have enrolled within three days after receiving a positive COVID-19 test, and had symptoms within seven days of being randomized for the drug treatments. Fifty-two per cent of participants were vaccinated.

The researchers say the study was limited because it only included patients who were overweight or obese, and only a few of them were Black or Latinx.