CORONAVIRUS/Taiwan rules out regular use of antiparasitic drug to treat COVID

06/14/2021 06:30 PM
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Pixabay image for illustrative purpose only
Pixabay image for illustrative purpose only

Taipei, June 14 (CNA) As the common antiparasitic ivermectin is being touted as a cure for COVID-19 in many parts of the world, Taiwan's experts on Monday warned against regular use of the drug in COVID-19 treatment, citing a lack of solid evidence.

"Following an expert meeting, we do not recommend regular use of ivermectin in treating COVID-19 due to lack of enough evidence," Chang Shan-chwen (張上淳), convener of the Central Epidemic Command Center's (CECC) expert advisory panel, told a daily press briefing.

According to a recent report in the American Journal of Therapeutics, meta-analyses based on 18 randomized controlled treatment trials of ivermectin in COVID-19 have found large, statistically significant reductions in mortality, time to clinical recovery, and time to viral clearance.

"Furthermore, results from numerous controlled prophylaxis trials report significantly reduced risks of contracting COVID-19 with the regular use of ivermectin," the report said.

Although initial findings showed that ivermectin seemed effective in the prevention and treatment of COVID-19, Chang, however, said no meaningful evidence has been discovered to fully verify that it helps bring down patients' mortality or intubation rate.

Neither is there evidence to prove that it speeds up the elimination of the coronavirus or shortens the length of a patient's hospital stay, because of the limited number of cases studied, he said.

Ivermectin, a medication used to treat many types of parasite infestations, was first used in 1988 to treat river blindness, a disease caused by infection from the parasitic worm Onchocerca volvulus. Since 2012, several studies showed antiviral effects of ivermectin on RNA viruses such as flu, dengue fever and acquired immunodeficiency syndrome (AIDS).

Therefore, demand for approval of the drug is growing across the world, with some countries recommending ivermectin as a cure for COVID-19 patients -- despite leading health authorities consistently warning against its use.

As neither the World Health Organization nor the European Union or the United States have included ivermectin in their guidelines for COVID-19 treatment, the CECC decided not to recommend a regular use of the drug for such a purpose, Chang said.

He warned COVID-19 patients against buying the drug over the counter to treat the disease due to potential side effects caused by inappropriate use.

(By Flor Wang and Chiang Hui-jun)

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