NEW DELHI: The World Health Organization on Tuesday recommended against the general use of ivermectin, an orally-administered drug used to treat parasitic infections - for treatment of Covid-19.
This medicine had recently been included in the Union health ministry's revised national Covid treatment protocol for people with mild disease even though its maker has now clarified that there is no evidence of its efficacy against the viral disease.
"Safety and efficacy are important when using any drug for a new indication. WHO recommends against use of 'ivermectin' for Covid-19 except within clinical trials," Soumya Swaminathan, WHO’s chief scientist tweeted on Tuesday.
The latest national clinical guidelines for Covid-19 treatment, developed by AIIMS, Delhi and the ICMR joint taskforce, had listed this drug as a possible treatment option for mild Covid-19 patient under home isolation in the "May Do" category, along with anti-malaria drug hydroxychloroquine.
This drug was classified as a possible therapy for mildly symptomatic patients "based on low certainty of evidence" in the guidelines.
Goa went a step further and on Monday, state health minister Vishwajit Rane said that all adults will be given this drug as a prophylactic measure. He claimed that the medicine has been found to bring down the Covid-19 mortality rate in several countries, even though the United States Food and Drug Administration had warned against its use in treating coronavirus patients over a year ago.
The WHO advisory meanwhile comes a day after the ivermectin manufacturer Merck & Co issued a statement saying that scientists continue to "carefully examine findings of all available and emerging studies of 'ivermectin' for treatment of COVID-19".
"...to-date, our analysis has identified: No scientific basis for a potential therapeutic effect against Covid-19 from pre-clinical studies; No meaningful evidence for clinical activity or efficacy in patients with COVID-19 disease, and a concerning lack of safety data in the majority of studies," the statement said.
Several therapies being used freely in India for Covid-19, despite no evidence, limited evidence of their efficacy or evidence to the contrary, such as plasma therapy, remdesivir and hydroxychloroquine have come under heavy criticism by experts who feel that their usage has fuelled a parallel pandemic of patient exploitation.
Most of these unproven therapies, however, are also part of the national Covid-19 treatment protocol issued by the Union government.