The warnings from the Food and Drug Administration and the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention are clear. Ivermectin — a drug typically used to treat parasitic infections — should not use as a treatment against COVID-19 outside of a clinical setting.
However, there is a legal and safe way to get access to Ivermectin as a possible treatment for the virus.
Dr. Rowena Dolor is one of the researchers of a government-funded trial looking at several repurposed drugs — including Ivermectin — for their potential effectiveness against COVID-19.
"We have done laboratory studies that have shown that it has some anti-viral effect is against SARS-CoV-2 and other viruses, but we don't know if that lab effect will translate into humans," Dolor said. "And so we want to do the act of study to scientifically test whether Ivermectin does benefit patients with COVID."
The study is also testing a steroid inhaler commonly used to treat asthma and COPD and an anti-depressant for their effectiveness against COVID-19.
However, Ivermectin is the experimental treatment that has gained the most recent attention because some were buying it in bulk from farm supply stores. The dosage in those products is meant to treat large animals like horses and cows, and the FDA reported that many who took the drug showed up in hospitals with serious side effects.
In the human trial, safety while using Ivermectin is the top priority.
"In this trial, we're actually dosing the medication based on the patient's weight, and we're low-dosing it based on the desired drug concentration that we need to treat the infection," Dolor said.
The ACTIV-6 trial that includes Ivermectin is looking for adults who have tested positive for COVID-19 and are experiencing symptoms. There are already several hundred patients enrolled at about 40 clinical sites, but researchers want to expand the study to include thousands of patients at 250 clinical sites.
Researchers add that getting a diverse pool of participants, particularly from the Black and Hispanic communities, is critical.
"We want to know that the trial results from these studies will be applicable to patients of color or communities of color," Dolor said. "The good news, though, is that we've had at least 25% of site participants to date have been Black or Hispanic Americans."
Click here to learn more about COVID-19 clinical treatment trials.