The results of a government study on the effectiveness of ivermectin in treating Covid-19 show that the drug does not reduce the risk of severe disease, the health ministry said today, adding that it does not recommend that the drug be included in existing guidelines for Covid-19 treatment.
In a statement, health director-general Dr Noor Hisham Abdullah said the I-TECH Study which had recruited 500 patients found no signficant differences in terms of ICU admission, mechanical ventilation, recovery from symptoms, blood test parameters and chest x-ray scan resolution between those who were given ivermectin and those who received only the standard care.
The odds of complete symptom recovery by the fifth day of enrolment between the two groups were also very similar and not statistically significant.
The rate of disease progression to the severe level was also similar in both groups, while there was no statistically significant difference in the average decline period.
Of the 500 subjects initially enrolled in the study, four were excluded for not meeting the study criteria while six others withdrew due to concerns over the side effects of ivermectin.
The last subject was recruited on Oct 9 while the last follow-up assessment was on Oct 25.
Safety analysis reported that the incidence of side effects or adverse events was three times higher in the group that had received ivermectin than the standard care group, mostly involving cases of diarrhoea.
There was a trend of 28-day mortality reduction by the ivermectin group but this did not reach statistical significance.
According to the experts responsible for providing independent statistical analysis, Noor Hisham said, the I-TECH study could not confirm that the use of ivermectin in hospitals would lead to fewer deaths within 28 days compared to standard care alone.
This is because of the small number of deaths (13/490) which caused a limited assessment of the results.
“Based on the outcomes of the I-TECH study, ivermectin cannot be recommended for inclusion in current Covid-19 treatment guidelines as ivermectin does not reduce risk of severe illness from Covid-19.
“The health ministry continues with prior advice that ivermectin only be used within clinical trials settings with monitoring,” Noor Hisham said.