The University of Minnesota runs the first trial in the United States of an infamous anti-parasite treatment that has gone rabid and widespread in the country's black market as a treatment for COVID-19. Ivermectin is being applied to an ongoing study. University of Utah researchers expect to discover a rare outpatient treatment that can avoid hospitalization, long-term complications, or death from infection with the coronavirus that causes COVID-19.

US runs the first trial of Ivermectin as a COVID-19 drug

The research comes as COVID-19 pandemic transmission in Minnesota decreases, with vaccines helping to reduce daily infections by half in the last two weeks and hospitalizations falling below 400 for the first time since late March. Treatments, however, are required in areas of the world where vaccine coverage is restricted and in pockets of the US and Minnesota where refusal to get vaccines could result in localized outbreaks, said the researchers.

"The vaccine is not affordable to all, while these drugs are now FDA-approved generics and can be found in most pharmacies around the world," said Dr. Carolyn Bramante, a U internal medicine expert who is heading the national trial, StarTribune reported. "If we see proof of value, ivermectin may be used right away everywhere," added Bramante.

Metformin, typically used to treat diabetes, has also been shown to reduce COVID-19 disease and mortality in women in studies conducted at the University of Utah. However, they will now equate its efficacy to that of Ivermectin and fluvoxamine, an antidepressant.

Last week, the University of Utah began enrolling up to 1,100 patients aged 30 and up to undergo one of the medications, either alone or in combination with metformin or a non-medicating placebo as a control. The effectiveness of the treatment can be determined solely by whether or not patients experience hypoxia or extreme oxygen deprivation.

There has been a shortage of proven COVID-19 drugs, especially those used on an outpatient basis to avoid serious illness. The U was one of the first to research hydroxychloroquine, an antiviral promoted by former President Donald Trump and backers last year, only to find that it did not significantly reduce infection or symptom onset.

In the absence of vaccines, a few medical associations and believers in the United States and those in India, South Africa, and other nations have called for the use of Ivermectin. However, no significant clinical trials have shown efficacy, and the drug's manufacturer, Merck, released a warning in February discouraging its use in COVID-19 trials. The FDA also advised against using the medication outside of a clinical trial.

Read Also: Mixing COVID-19 Vaccines Is Link to More Side Effects, New Study Shows

Online interest in ivermectin surges; experts urge caution

Ivermectin, an antiparasitic drug, is gaining popularity online, with some seeing it as a possible COVID-19 treatment. But, as with other common unproven treatments, including hydroxychloroquine, medical professionals and global health organizations have cautioned that the medication's use is not supported by sufficient evidence.

Data from Google Trends shows a sharp rise in Google searches for the word "Ivermectin" over the last 12 months, with existing interest levels above the peak. The medication has sparked particular interest in Slovakia, where the government has approved its use in COVID-19 patients. In South Africa, a pack of 10-pills can be found on the black market for 15 times the average $4 price, amid local health authorities' warnings.

Ivermectin supporters argue that clinical trials prove the medication reduces mortality in COVID-19 patients. Still, health authorities such as the US Food and Drug Administration (FDA) and the European Medicines Agency (EMA) have warned against its use outside of controlled clinical trials due to a lack of sufficient data. Merck & Co., which makes Ivermectin, said in a statement released in February that its research found "no statistical basis for a possible therapeutic effect against COVID-19 and "no meaningful evidence for clinical intervention or clinical effectiveness in patients with COVID-19," as per Forbes.

According to Republic World, Goa's Health Minister Vishwajit Rane said Ivermectin 12mg tablet would be available in all district, sub-district, PHCs, CHCs, sub-health centers rural dispensaries. People can collect and begin care immediately, regardless of symptoms or anything. Rane said that he had issued orders for prophylaxis treatment to be implemented "immediately."

However, he added that one should not have a "false sense of confidence and complacency" and strictly observe all precautionary steps and SOPs. The treatment, according to Rane, would not prevent COVID-19, although it will serve to lessen the seriousness of the disease.

Related Article: WHO, Others, Warn Using Ivermectin as Treatment to COVID-19