Ivermectin a medication used to treat parasitic infestations such as head lice, scabies, river blindness, strongyloidiasis, trichuriasis, ascariasis, and lymphatic filariasis has suddenly become a focus drug in the battle to combat the current Coronavirus pandemic.
According to The Times report, Oxford University researchers are planning a clinical trial on the drug which has shown signs of reducing COVID-19 deaths in developing countries. The Principle trial is aiming to find a drug that works soon after virus symptoms appear in a patient, and one that is most effective during the primary stages of the illness, The Times reported. Other scientists said the drug had not been assessed properly and that the full extent of its efficacy was not yet known.
“It has potent antiviral properties and anti-inflammatory properties and there have been quite a few smaller trials conducted in low and middle-income countries, showing that it speeds recovery, reduces inflammation, and reduces hospitalization,” said Chris Butler, professor of primary care at Oxford and co-chief of the Principle trial. “But there’s a gap in the data. There’s not been a really rigorous trial.”
The medicine works by blocking the entry of a protein into a cell’s nuclei, limiting the replication capacity of the virus, and initial analysis from the World Health Organization has shown promising signs.
“It could save thousands of lives a day,” said Paul Marik, from the Eastern Virginia Medical School. “The data is compelling: across Mexico, India, and South America, mortality has fallen.”
Peter Horby, the Oxford University professor who helped to set up the UK’s largest COVID-19 trials, said this month the latest data was “interesting, perhaps encouraging, but not yet convincing.”
Most breakthroughs in coronavirus treatments to date work on patients who are already suffering in the later stages of the illness, but Butler and his team are hoping to find a medicine that can prevent the virus from taking hold within its host.
The trial is looking for people aged 65 and over, or those aged over 50 who have underlying health conditions, through general practitioners, online, and through the UK’s NHS Test and Trace system, The Times said.
Currently, the only approved drug for treating COVID-19 is Remdesivir. The FDA approved Remdesivir (Veklury) to treat COVID-19 in adults and children who are aged 12 and older. Remdesivir may be prescribed for people who are hospitalized with COVID-19. It’s given through a needle in the skin (intravenously). The FDA also granted an emergency use authorization for the rheumatoid arthritis drug baricitinib (Olumiant) to treat COVID-19 in some cases. Baricitinib is a pill that seems to work against COVID-19 by reducing inflammation and having antiviral activity. The FDA states that baricitinib may be used in combination with remdesivir in people who are hospitalized with COVID-19 and who are on mechanical ventilators or who need supplemental oxygen.