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Round white pills on a wooden surface

No Reduction in COVID-19 Hospitalizations, Deaths with Ivermectin

The ACTIV-6 trial reports that people who took the drug for three days may have spent slightly less time feeling unwell with SARS-CoV-2, but fails to find differences in disease progression between the treatment and placebo groups.

Catherine Offord
Catherine Offord

Catherine is a senior editor at The Scientist.

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Alarge study investigating potential repurposed treatments for COVID-19 has found no benefit for ivermectin in reducing a person’s risk of being hospitalized or dying from the disease, according to a preprint posted by the researchers on medRxiv yesterday (June 12). The randomized placebo-controlled trial included more than 1,500 people, and adds to a growing body of research suggesting the antiparasitic drug is unlikely to be effective at staving off disease progression.

“Overall, most people improved their symptoms whether they took ivermectin or not,” study coauthor Adrian Hernandez, executive director of the Duke Clinical Research Institute, says in a press statement. He adds that “there does not appear to be a role for ivermectin outside of a clinical trial setting, especially considering other available options with proven reduction in hospitalizations and death.”

See “Ivermectin (Still) Lacks Support as a COVID-19 Drug

The trial was conducted as part of ACTIV-6, a multi-arm study funded by the National Institutes of Health (NIH) to investigate potential early treatments for COVID-19. Of the 1,591 people enrolled for this arm, 817 received 400 μg/kg of ivermectin per day for three days, while the rest received a placebo. Just under half of the study participants had had at least two SARS-CoV-2 vaccine doses.

The team found no statistically significant effects of the drug on hospitalizations or deaths. While there were 10 such events in the ivermectin group, there were 9 in the placebo group. The only death recorded in the study was of a participant assigned to the ivermectin group.

A separate analysis by the researchers suggested that ivermectin may have a slight impact on how long a person feels ill with COVID-19: participants receiving the drug reported feeling unwell for an average of 10.96 days compared with the placebo group’s 11.45 days.

The trial is the latest in a string of clinical studies that have failed to find evidence that early treatment with ivermectin reduces risk of COVID-19 progression. Just last month, the TOGETHER trial, another multi-arm study, reported in the New England Journal of Medicine that treatment with ivermectin “did not result in a lower incidence of medical admission to a hospital due to progression of Covid-19 or of prolonged emergency department observation among outpatients with an early diagnosis of Covid-19.”        

The NIH updated its clinical guidelines in late April of this year to recommend “against the use of ivermectin for the treatment of COVID-19, except in clinical trials.” Prior to that, it had stated that there was “insufficient evidence” to recommend for or against the use of the drug as a COVID-19 treatment.

The ACTIV-6 trial is ongoing. Other arms that have yet to report findings include a study of the antidepressant fluvoxamine and a separate study of ivermectin at a higher dose of 600 μg/kg for six days. 

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