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The World Health Organization (WHO) on Tuesday cautioned against the indiscriminate use of ivermectin, an anti-parasitic drug that the Goa government plans to give all adults to reduce the risk of contracting covid-19.

“Safety and efficacy are important when using any drug for a new indication. WHO recommends against the use of ivermectin for covid-19, except within clinical trials," Soumya Swaminathan, chief scientist at the WHO, said in a Twitter post.

The efficacy of ivermectin, widely used in India to treat covid, in managing the deadly respiratory disease has been the subject of debate, with some studies recommending the use of the drug, while the WHO and the US Food and Drug Administration say that there is no evidence that the medicine seems to help.

In March, the WHO said the current evidence on the use of ivermectin to treat covid patients is inconclusive. Until more data is available, WHO recommended that the drug only be used within clinical trials. The US drugs regulator has also recommended that the drug not be used for covid-19.

India’s health ministry, in its revised guidelines on home isolation, has, however, recommended ivermectin in cases of mild infection, in case paracetamol isn’t effective in reducing fever. “Consider Tab Ivermectin (200 microgram per kg of body weight once a day to be taken empty stomach) for 3 to 5 days", the revised guidelines of the health ministry state.

In February, Merck, an ivermectin maker in the US, said its scientists continue to examine the findings of all available and emerging studies of ivermectin for the treatment of covid but has not found evidence to support the use. “It is important that, to-date, our analysis has identified no scientific basis for a potential therapeutic effect against covid from pre-clinical studies; no meaningful evidence for clinical activity or clinical efficacy in patients with the covid disease, and; a concerning lack of safety data in the majority of studies," the company said.

Several public health experts, too, have advised against the use of the drug. “There is apparently no role of ivermectin in management of covid. Both should be removed from all guidelines till robust evidence is generated. Ivermectin maker (Merck) and the WHO have both strongly advised against it. It can be individually or universally given for scabies, O. volvulus, strongyloidiasis and filariasis," said Dr Anoop Misra, chairman, Fortis Centre for Diabetes, Obesity and Cholesterol (C-DOC), and heads, the National Diabetes Obesity and Cholesterol Foundation.

To be sure, a peer-reviewed research published last week in the American Journal of Therapeutics has said that immediate global ivermectin use can end covid. The research was based on data taken from clinical, in vitro, animal, and real-world studies. A group of medical and scientific experts, led by the Front Line Covid-19 Critical Care Alliance (FLCCC), reviewed published peer-reviewed studies, manuscripts, expert meta-analyses, and epidemiological analyses of regions with ivermectin distribution efforts and concluded that the drug is an effective prophylaxis and treatment for covid-19.

“We applied the gold standard to qualify the data reviewed before concluding that ivermectin can end this pandemic," said Pierre Kory, president and chief medical officer of the FLCCC.

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