ST. LOUIS — The mayor of a central Missouri resort town sparked outrage and debate this week after going on social media to ask for prayers and support in his effort to treat a longtime friend suffering from COVID-19 with an anti-parasite drug primarily used on livestock.
In a since-deleted Facebook post, Mayor Dennis Newberry told the public his friend, a restaurant owner in Cuba, Missouri, had been hospitalized with COVID-19. The mayor said he’d acquired ivermectin and was going to the hospital in an attempt to persuade doctors and nurses to let him use the drug on his friend.
Newberry didn’t say how he obtained the drug, nor did he specify if he had acquired the animal or human form of ivermectin.
The restaurant owner’s son commented on Newberry’s post, saying his father was not in need of ivermectin “or any other animal related drug” and asked the mayor to remove the post due to the stress it was causing the family.
It’s unclear if Newberry, a realtor in the Lake of the Ozarks, actually went to the hospital. He has not posted any update on the ordeal on Facebook or to his personal blog.
Ivermectin is an antiparasitic discovered and developed by drug manufacturer Merck. It’s been in widespread use for decades. For humans, the drug is a treatment for some parasitic worms, as well as head lice, scabies, river blindness and rosacea. It’s also used to treat parasites in livestock.
Unfortunately, ivermectin is not an antiviral drug, and SARS-CoV-2 is a virus.
The veterinary version of ivermectin can be poisonous to human beings.
Last week, the Mississippi Department of Health was forced to send out a warning to residents about the dangers of the drug after several poisonings.
The Mississippi Poison Control Center said at least 70% of recent ivermectin-related calls are tied to people taking livestock or animal formulations they bought a livestock supply stores or through online markets.
Eighty-five percent of callers had mild symptoms — these include rash, nausea, vomiting, and abdominal pain — but one person needed evaluation because of how much they’d taken.
More severe dangers of ivermectin ingestion include neurologic disorders, seizures, coma, and death.
Even Merck, which would stand to gain financially if ivermectin were in widespread use, has long been against its use as a COVID treatment.
In short: ivermectin is not a credible treatment against COVID-19.
Over the last several months, ivermectin has been heralded as some kind of wonder drug or miracle cure for COVID-19. A research paper in June 2020 claimed that ivermectin suppressed the replication of the SARS-CoV-2 virus, though noted the need for clinical trials. Other researchers noted some successes with the drug as well. This led to the embrace of ivermectin in places like Latin America and India eager to find a COVID cure or treatment.
One group of doctors and researchers, the Front Line COVID-19 Critical Care Alliance, published a paper touting ivermectin. That paper was published in a medical journal in Jan. 2021 and removed from consideration in March after editors determined the paper did not meet the standard of evidence and discovered the paper’s authors were using the report to push their own treatment programs.
The National Institutes of Health has reviewed many of these studies and found limitations, making their conclusions less than definitive.
Over the weekend, the Food and Drug Administration put out an article and FAQ explaining why people shouldn’t use ivermectin to treat COVID.
The desire to push a COVID cure is not new. Last fall, some latched onto the anti-malaria drug hydroxychloroquine as a way to either prevent contracting COVID-19 or as a means of treatment. However, months of study and analysis from the scientific community proved that hydroxychloroquine is not an effective preventative of COVID-19. The World Health Organization, the U.S. Food and Drug Administration, the National Institutes of Health all recommend against its use.