Anti-parasitic drug investigated as potential COVID treatment

pharmafile | June 23, 2021 | News story | Research and Development  

The University of Oxford has announced that it has begun investigations into ivermectin, a controversial anti-parasitic drug, as a potential COVID-19 treatment as part of a government-backed study aiming to aid recoveries in non-hospital settings.

The Principle study has recruited 5,088 participants over the age of 50 to compare the drug to standard of care.

Ivermectin has faced criticism after being promoted across Latin and South America for COVID treatment, against WHO advice. There have also been many reports of ivermectin being taken up by doctors or by individuals self-medicating in countries including Brazil, Bolivia, Peru, South Africa and the US.

Ivermectin is most commonly used to treat parasitic infections such as river blindness, spread by flies, but has also been shown to kill viruses in petri dishes in the lab – although, at much higher doses than would usually be prescribed to people.

Thus far, studies into the efficacy of the drug have been small-scale or of low quality. Though there have been some early “promising” results from small and observational studies, Principle Joint Chief Investigator, Prof Richard Hobbs, said it would be “premature” to recommend ivermectin for COVID-19 treatment.

As part of the trial, Oxford University are also investigating favipiravir, an antiviral drug, alongside five other treatments. Of the other drugs in the Principle study, only one – inhaled steroid budesonide – has so far proved effective.

Chris Butler, co-lead investigator of the trial, said: “By including ivermectin in a large-scale trial like Principle, we hope to generate robust evidence to determine how effective the treatment is against COVID-19, and whether there are benefits or harms associated with its use.”

People with severe liver conditions, who are on blood-thinning medication warfarin, or taking other treatments known to interact with ivermectin, will be excluded from the trial, the university added.

Over-50s with an underlying health condition or experiencing breathlessness can sign up to the Principle study if they have had COVID symptoms for up to 14 days.

Kat Jenkins

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