A box of ivermectin is shown in a pharmacy.

Ivermectin is not being given to COVID-19 patients in Australia

AAP FactCheck September 30, 2021

The Statement

A video shared on social media includes claims that vaccinated people with COVID-19 are being treated with the drug ivermectin in hospital.

In the video, posted to an Instagram account, a woman in a nurse’s uniform and draped in an Australian flag, says: “I’m gonna tell you what’s happening in the hospitals down south”, before clarifying the locations as Victoria and NSW. 

“Those that are vaccinated and present with COVID are now being given … ivermectin … And they’re surviving the COVID and walking out of the hospitals. And they’re going and saying, ‘Look, the vaccine saved me.’ It wasn’t the vaccine that saved them, it was the ivermectin,” she says (video mark 10sec).

At the time of writing, the September 19 post had more than 13,000 views. The video is also posted elsewhere on Instagram and Facebook, and it also features in a story on a UK website that calls COVID-19 “the alleged … disease”.

A similar claim is made on another Instagram post, which includes screen grabs purportedly showing electronic prescriptions for “invermectin (sic)” and zinc picolinate.

The Instagram post
 Hospitals in Victoria and NSW are treating COVID patients with ivermectin, a video claims. 

The Analysis

There is no evidence to support the claim that ivermectin is being used to treat people vaccinated against COVID-19 in NSW and Victorian hospitals. Health authorities confirmed to AAP FactCheck the drug, which has not been approved as a treatment for the coronavirus in Australia, is not in use.

Ivermectin is commonly used to treat parasitic infections. However, it was identified as a possible treatment for COVID-19 early in the pandemic after Australian researchers found it inhibited the coronavirus in cells during laboratory tests.

Since then, it has been administered in an attempt to combat COVID-19 in several developing countries in regions such as Latin America. But major health bodies like the World Health Organisation and drug regulators in developed nations have cautioned against its use to treat the coronavirus.

Australia’s Therapeutic Goods Administration (TGA) has not approved ivermectin to treat people with COVID-19. Its website states: “Ivermectin has not received regulatory approval in Australia or by other comparable countries for use as an anti-viral treatment.”

On September 10, the TGA effectively banned off-label prescriptions of ivermectin, preventing doctors from prescribing the drug for anything outside its sanctioned use.

“General practitioners are now only able to prescribe ivermectin for TGA-approved conditions (indications) – scabies and certain parasitic infections,” it said in a media release.

A TGA spokeswoman told AAP FactCheck in an email that the restrictions on ivermectin did not allow for it to be prescribed in hospital except as part of an approved clinical trial.

In response to the video’s claim about ivermectin being used to treat vaccinated patients in hospitals, a NSW Health said in an emailed statement that the government department was aware of incorrect public health advice circulating in the community and social media.

“Fake news and misinformation on COVID-19 can be dangerous to the health of individuals and families from all communities in NSW,” the statement said.

That situation became a reality in September when the Western Sydney Local Health District reported that a COVID-positive person presented at a hospital emergency department with vomiting and diarrhoea from taking ivermectin and other purported cures they ordered online.

NSW Health guidance on therapies for patients with COVID-19 states that ivermectin is not recommended and that “access should not be given outside clinical trials”. The guidance links to the website of the National COVID-19 Clinical Evidence Taskforce, whose ivermectin FAQs states: “Do not use ivermectin for the treatment of COVID-19 outside of randomised trials with appropriate ethical approval.”

Another video post, on Instagram, shows a packet with the label “Ivermectin (Stromectol)” and a second label that reads “Liverpool Hospital – Pharmacy Department”. Later in the video, the packet is shown over an excerpt of a document that includes the words “discharge plan” and a reference to COVID-19.

However, the document also includes an obscured reference to “strongyloides”, a genus of nematode or roundworm.

A spokeswoman for South Western Sydney Local Health District, which oversees Liverpool Hospital, said in an emailed statement that doctors working for the agency did not prescribe Stromectol for COVID-19.

“Stromectol is used for the treatment of river blindness (onchocerciasis) and threadworm involving the intestines (intestinal strongyloidiasis),” she said. 

A Victorian Department of Health spokesman told AAP FactCheck in an email that ivermectin had no role in the treatment or prevention of COVID-19.

Guidelines published by the national taskforce include several recommended COVID-19 treatments for those with the disease, such as the drugs sotrovimab and remdesivir. An article by members of the taskforce highlights the measures used to combat the virus in patients hospitalised with severe illness, including the use of dexamethasone and other anti-inflammatory drugs.

Tony Sara, a NSW Health medical advisor and president of salaried doctors union ASMOF NSW, said the claims included in the video were “lies in the extreme”.

“There is no evidence that ivermectin does anything for COVID,” Dr Sara told AAP FactCheck in an email.

“As a result we would not use it in NSW or Australian hospitals – to do so would be unethical and unprofessional conduct.”

A Cochrane review published on July 28 concluded that, based on 14 studies, the reliable evidence from clinical trials did not support the use of ivermectin for either the treatment or prevention of COVID‐19 outside of further trials. A major trial into ivermectin use for COVID-19 is being conducted by Oxford University.

The Verdict

There is no evidence NSW and Victorian hospitals are treating vaccinated COVID-19 patients with ivermectin. Statements and guidance from state and national health bodies show it forms no part of clinical treatment guidelines, while the TGA has banned the prescription of the drug to treat COVID-19 outside of clinical trials.

False – Content that has no basis in fact.

Updated October 9, 2021 15:30 AEDT: Adds reference to Liverpool Hospital video and statement from South Western Sydney Local Health District.

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