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Ivermectin does not reduce risk of severe illness from COVID-19: Malaysia's health ministry

Ivermectin does not reduce risk of severe illness from COVID-19: Malaysia's health ministry

A box of Ivermectin. (Photo: Bernama)

KUALA LUMPUR: Ivermectin does not reduce the risk of severe illness from COVID-19, and cannot be recommended for inclusion in current COVID-19 treatment guidelines, said Malaysia's health ministry.

Health director-general Dr Noor Hisham Abdullah said on Wednesday (Nov 3) that the ministry recommends that Ivermectin be used only in clinical studies with monitoring, citing the results of the I-TECH study by the Institute for Clinical Research (ICR).

The study was conducted on 500 COVID-19 patients admitted to hospital in stage two or stage three categories. It evaluated the effectiveness of a five-day Ivermectin treatment.

"The clinical trial study was conducted by infectious disease physicians and clinicians who were actively involved in COVID-19 management in collaboration with ICR under the National Institute of Health," he said.

“The I-TECH study was to see whether the administration of Ivermectin in the first week on patients experiencing symptoms of COVID-19 could prevent them from getting worse (stage four or stage five) which was among patients aged 50 years and above and having at least one comorbidity."

One group of patients was given Ivermectin treatment, while another group was given the standard care based on the health ministry's guidelines.

Lead researcher Dr Steven Lim Chee Loon, an infectious disease specialist from the Raja Permaisuri Bainun Hospital in Ipoh, revealed that no significant difference was found in terms of ICU admission, usage of breathing support equipment, recovery of symptoms, blood test parameter and chest X-ray scans between the two groups.

“The probability to fully recover from the symptoms on the fifth day among the two groups was almost similar, where there was no statistically significant difference recorded," said Dr Noor Hisham.

"Apart from that, the safety analysis reported a threefold occurrence of side effects among the (Ivermectin) group, compared with the (standard of care) group, of which most of them were diarrhoea cases.

"It is hoped that the local study could provide enlightenment to medical practitioners in Malaysia and the public who have been asking about the efficacy of Ivermectin in the COVID-19 clinical treatment practice."

He also reminded medical practitioners not to recommend the use of Ivermectin, including sharing advertisements or illegal sale of Ivermectin to treat COVID-19, until more solid scientific evidence is available.

The results of the study are in line with large-scale studies such as IVERCOR-COVID-19 from Argentina and TOGETHER from Brazil that do not support the routine use of Ivermectin in the clinical practice of COVID-19 treatment, he said.

The I-TECH research team planned to submit the study data for publication in a peer-reviewed journal to provide additional information on Ivermectin studies, including meta-analysis, he added.

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