A syringe of of ivermectin used to teat horses.
Ivermectin is used to kill parasites in horses and also prescribed to humans in some cases. Image by AP

Claim TGA now backs ivermectin is a losing bet

AAP FactCheck March 3, 2022

The Therapeutic Goods Administration overturned a ban on ivermectin as a treatment for COVID-19.


False. The TGA's policy on the anti-parasitical drug to treat COVID has not changed.

A social media video claims that Australia’s medical regulator has done an about-face on the drug ivermectin by overturning a ban on its use for treating COVID-19.

The claim is false. The Department of Health and Therapeutic Goods Administration (TGA) say ivermectin is not approved for the treatment or prevention of the coronavirus.

Australian anti-vaccine mandate activist Graham Hood makes the claim in a video on Facebook while holding a box of Stromectol (oral ivermectin).

“Now legacy media, who’ve been suppressing the use of ivermectin and pushing that narrative for two years, are now coming out and claiming it as a miracle. … the government now is promoting this as a miracle cure and the TGA are releasing it after banning it when so many people who are tallied in the death toll of COVID could have been saved by it,” he says (video mark 6 min 30 sec).

AAP FactCheck has previously debunked COVID misinformation by Mr Hood.

Primarily used as veterinary medicine to treat parasites in animals, ivermectin has been the basis of claims that it can also treat COVID despite scientific evidence against the assertion.

A Department of Health spokesperson told AAP FactCheck the claims in the video are false, and nothing has changed regarding the government’s advice on ivermectin.

“Ivermectin does not have regulatory approval in Australia, or any other comparable OECD country, for the treatment or prevention of COVID-19,” the spokesperson said in an email.

The department said the TGA had only approved the prescription of oral ivermectin for the treatment of “river blindness, threadworm of the intestines and scabies“.

Medical experts told AAP FactCheck there is no truth in the video’s claim about ivermectin’s use in relation to COVID.

“The approved indications for use of Stromectol (Ivermectin 3mg) are still limited to parasitic conditions,” Professor Catherine Bennett, chair of epidemiology at Deakin University, said an email.

Professor Tari Turner, executive director of the National COVID-19 Clinical Evidence Taskforce, said there was no evidence to provide any reason to support the use of ivermectin to treat COVID.

“The available evidence does not demonstrate any benefit from using ivermectin as a treatment for COVID-19,” she told AAP FactCheck via email.

The taskforce issued a fact sheet in November last year, making a “strong recommendation against the use of ivermectin” outside clinical trials, and warning of common side effects including diarrhoea, nausea and dizziness.

Government recommendations have consistently said there’s no evidence the drug is effective against COVID.

The Department of Health website says: “There is not enough evidence to support the safe and effective use” of ivermectin as a treatment for COVID.

In September 2021, the TGA placed additional restrictions on GPs prescribing ivermectin. Clinical trials on the use of ivermectin to treat COVID are ongoing.

“There is a small minority of clinicians who still advocate for use with COVID, those who don’t understand how evidence is considered that underpins clinical guidelines,” Prof Bennett said.

“Importantly, the highly favourable findings reported in some small trial results haven’t been replicated in large trials … And of course, some of the larger trials there were have been withdrawn from publication with signs of fraudulence.”

A study in 2021 that claimed ivermectin could reduce COVID death rates was withdrawn after numerous flaws were pointed out.

A randomised clinical trial in Malaysia, published by the Journal of American Medicine in February, found that a course of ivermectin treatment for high-risk patients with COVID during early illness “did not prevent progression to severe disease”.

The US Food and Drug Administration says ivermectin is not approved or recommended for use against COVID and warns that “taking large doses of ivermectin is dangerous“.

There have been cases in Australia of people requiring hospital care after an ivermectin overdose as well as multiple reports of overdoses and deaths in the US.

A recent erroneous report on the Nine Network’s A Current Affair claimed an Australian doctor recommended Queen Elizabeth II’s COVID case be treated with ivermectin, sparking conspiracy theories, which AAP FactCheck debunked.

AAP FactCheck has investigated other claims about ivermectin and COVID here, here and here.

The Verdict

Australia’s medical regulator, the Therapeutic Goods Administration, has not overturned a ban on ivermectin as a treatment for COVID-19. The Department of Health confirmed to AAP FactCheck that the advice on the antiparasitic drug in relation to COVID was unchanged.

False – The claim is inaccurate.

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