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Test tube study shows ivermectin has 'antiviral effect' against Omicron, Japanese company says
Dimas Ardian/Bloomberg via Getty Images

Test tube study shows ivermectin has 'antiviral effect' against Omicron, Japanese company says

A Japanese pharmaceutical company on Monday reported that ivermectin, a drug used to fight parasites, showed an "antiviral effect" against Omicron and other coronavirus variants in a study.

Kowa Company, Ltd. partnered with Tokyo's Kitasato University in a joint laboratory study that looked at ivermectin as a potential treatment for COVID-19, Reuters reports. The company said in a press release that clinical trials for the study are ongoing.

The use of ivermectin to treat COVID-19 is highly controversial. A June 2020 study found that the drug appeared to have an antiviral effect against COVID-19 in vitro, colloquially meaning "test tube experiments." Those early promising results spurred hope that ivermectin could be developed into an effective treatment for COVID-19, but clinical studies with real-life patients considered by the U.S. government did not demonstrate the drug was effective at treating COVID-19.

An investigative report by the BBC found that more than a third of 26 major trials with ivermectin against COVID-19 had "serious errors or signs of potential fraud," and that the remaining studies did not show it was effective as a treatment for COVID.

Kowa's press release confirms that ivermectin has the same antiviral effect against the Omicron variant in test tube experiments as it previously had with other variants of the virus.

Ivermectin is not approved for use against COVID-19 in Japan, and the U.S. Food and Drug Administration has repeatedly warned against its use as a COVID-19 therapeutic. The World Health Organization, the EU drug regulator, and Merck, the manufacturer of ivermectin, have also warned against its use.

Still, some doctors in the U.S. and medical freedom advocates have petitioned for a right to try ivermectin and other unproven COVID-19 therapeutics because of claims that some coronavirus patients have shown improvement after taking the drug.

When popular podcast host Joe Rogan came down with COVID last fall, he announced that he took "all kinds of meds" to treat his illness, including ivermectin and monoclonal antibodies. After he recovered, Rogan was derided by the media and falsely accused of taking a "horse dewormer."

While there is an ivermectin paste available as an anti-parasitic treatment for animals, there is also a version of the medication made for human beings, and that's the medicine Rogan took. The paste version is not intended for human consumption and could be dangerous if overdosed.

The in vitro findings of the Kowa Company's study will need to be supported by clinical studies that show ivermectin is effective against COVID-19 before public health authorities will acknowledge the drug as a potential therapeutic for coronavirus.

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