Ivermectin: What is it, What is it for & How You Can Use It?

Ivermectin is an anti-parasitic drug qualified for paralyzing and promoting the elimination of various types of parasites and being mainly indicated for the treatment of river blindness, pediculosis (lice), scabies, elephantiasis, and ascariasis (roundworm).

This medicine is indicated for adults and children over 5 years of age and can be found in pharmacies, and it is essential to consult a doctor regarding its use, as the dose may different according to the infection to be treated and the person’s weight. 

Ivermectin is one of the drugs that has been studied for the treatment of COVID-19, however, the results of the studies are not conclusive, so ivermectin is contradicted for COVID-19 by most of the international health entities including WHO.

What is it for?

Ivermectin is an antiparasitic drug is determined for the treatment of several diseases, such as:

  • Scabies 
  • Intestinal strongyloidiasis – which is the infection caused by the parasite Strongyloides stercoralis
  • Filariasis – popularly known as elephantiasis;
  • Ascariasis – which is infection by the parasite Ascaris lumbricoides;
  • Pediculosis – which is lice infestation;
  • Onchocerciasis – popularly known as River Blindness.

It is essential that the use of Ivermectin is done according to the doctor’s advice, as this way it is possible to prevent the appearance of side effects such as tiredness, stomach pain, weight loss, diarrhea, vomiting, and constipation. In some cases, dizziness, drowsiness, tremors, and skin hives may also appear.

How to use

The use of ivermectin should be done according to the doctor’s advice, and it is usually recommended to take the medication with a glass of water on an empty stomach, one hour before breakfast. Ivermectin is usually used in a single dose and the number of pills may alter depending on the person’s weight and disease being treated.

Only one dose of the drug is able to eliminate the parasites, however it is essential that stool or blood test are performed 2 weeks after the start of treatment, so the doctor can determine the need to repeat the dosage. 

Mainly, anti-parasitic drugs can be used once every six months, since the repeated use of this type of drug especially when at short intervals, can increase the risk of negative effects and the development of drug-induced hepatitis, for example

Strongyloidiasis, filariasis, scabies, lice and roundworms 

To treat strongyloidiasis, filariasis, scabies, lice and roundworms, the recommended use should be adjusted to weight as follows:

Weight (in kg) Number of Tablets (6 mg)
15 to 24 kg
½ Tablet
25 to 35 kg
1 Tablet
36 to 50 kg
1 ½ Tablet
51 to 65 kg
2 Tablets
66 to 79 kg
2 ½ Tablets
More than 80
200 mcg per kg

Onchocerciasis

To treat onchocerciasis, the recommended dose, depending on person’s weight is as follows:

Weight (in kg) Number of Tablets (6 mg)
15 to 25 kg
½ Tablet
26 to 44 kg
1 Tablet
45 to 64 kg
1 ½ Tablet
65 to 84 kg
2 Tablets
More than 85 kg
150 mcg per kg

Possible side effects

Some of the most common side effects that may occur during treatment with ivermectin are diarrhea, vomiting, nausea, general weakness and lack of energy, abdominal pain, loss of appetite or constipation. These reactions are usually mild and short-lived.

In addition, allergic reactions may also occur, especially when taking ivermectin for onchocerciasis, which may present with abdominal pain, fever, itching throughout the body, red patches on the skin, swelling of the eyes & eyelids. If these symptoms appear, it is advised to stop using the drug and look for medical help right away or visit your concerned doctor.

Can Ivermectin cause drug hepatits?

Although the drug insert does not mention serious side effects related to liver problems such as drug hepatits, it is known that this drug can increase the presence of liver enzymes in blood tests.

Also, this drug is indicated only in sensitive cases, for short term treatment, and it’s effect on the body have not been studied at doses higher than those recommended or for long periods.

Hence, it is possible that prolonged use, very frequent or in doses higher than those indicated, can cause liver problems including drug-induced hepatitis. The ideal is always to consume ivermectin under the guidance of your concerned doctor.

Who should not take

This medication is contradicted for pregnent women, women who are breastfeeding, children under 5 years or 15kg weight and patients with asthma or meningitis. Additionally, it should not be used in people with hypersensitivity to ivermectin or any of the components present in the formula.

Ivermectin and COVID-19

The use of ivermectin against COVID-19 has been widely discussed in the scientific community, because the antiparasitic has an antiviral action against the virus responsible for yellow fever, dengue and ZIKA, therefore, it was assumed that it would also have an effect against the virus of COVID-19.

In the treatment of COVID-19 

Although some laboratory studies have shown that ivermectin has antiviral action against the SARS-CoV-2 virus responsible for COVID-19, the WHO and other health agencies such as the Ministry of Health of Brazil, the FDA, Anvisa, the NHS and EMA do not recommend using the drug for the prevention and treatment of infection. 

Additionally, pharmaceutical company Merck, responsible for the production of ivermectin, also does not recommend the use of the drug in treatment of COVID-19. This is because in laboratory studies, the drug concentrations are essential to have the antiviral effect against COVID-19 were high, surpassing the limits currently defined as safe use in humans.

Furthermore, clinical studies done with infected patients also showed results with little evidence, especially as many researches were done with a small number of people, because very different dosage were used between each study and often, ivermectin was used together with other drugs, making it difficult to evaluate the effectiveness and safety of the drug.

So, the WHO guidelines signify that ivermectin should only be used to carry out clinical trials, which help to prove the effects and safety ofg the drug, and should not be used in the treatment of patients with COVID-19.

In the prevention of COVID-19 

The use of medication to prevent an infection or disease must always studied well enough, since the prolonged use of any type of substance, and without need, can cause serious health effects, even if it is used in low doses.

For this reason, the WHO offer recommendation against the use of ivermectin or any other medicine to prevent COVID-19 and indicates that the only proven and safe ways to prevent the infection are vaccination and the adoption of preventive measures, such as social distancing, washing hands, and wear masks.

Hope this article will help you learn more about Ivermectin usage! Don’t forget to share it with your community. 

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