Repurposed antiparasitic is not a Covid-19 cure, yet

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Repurposed antiparasitic is not a Covid-19 cure, yet

Despite research suggesting that a widely available antiparasitic might be effective against Covid-19, local health authorities are insisting that it should not be used for that purpose, with one saying that it is only good for treating animals.

The Korea Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (KCDC) said in a briefing Monday that the drug ivermectin has not been proven safe or effective in the treatment of Covid-19.

The antiparasitic drug substance was developed by Merck and has been in use since 1981. On Friday, Australia’s Monash University announced that its scientists found that a single dose of ivermectin killed the coronavirus within 48 hours.

The Merck antiparasitic tablet is approved by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration for the use in treating various parasitic infections, including lice and rosacea. It has also been shown to be effective in vitro against H.I.V., dengue, influenza and Zika. The drug is widely available and is included in the World Health Organization’s Model List of Essential Medicines as an anti-infective medicine.

“We did review the research paper from Australia, but the scientists suggested that ivermectin could work on a molecular level not through human testing,” said KCDC Director Jung Eun-kyeong.

“This is a result from the research stage that raises the possibility of such effect on humans, and this result didn’t come from actual clinical stages, so our stance is that [ivermectin] didn’t prove safe or effective at this point, and that’s the KCDC’s official stance.”

Monash University warned against the use in treating Covid-19, saying the drug “cannot be used in humans for Covid-19 until further testing and clinical trials have been completed.”

“The next steps are to determine the correct human dosage - ensuring the doses shown to effectively treat the virus in vitro are safe for humans,” the statement said.

The Korean Pharmaceutical Association urged local pharmacies in a statement Tuesday to educate customers who purchase ivermectin-containing antiparasitic drugs, adding that those products should only be used in treating animals.

Shares of local pharmaceutical companies selling antiparasitic drugs rose sharply Monday.

Shin Poong Pharm, the only company in Korea that sells ivermectin tablets for human use, rose to the daily limit of 30 percent Monday to 20,000 won ($16).

The Korea Exchange suspended trading of Shin Poong Pharm for a single day Tuesday after the stock rising more than 40 percent in two trading days. Shin Poong Pharm preferred shares rose by the daily limit and hit 34,450 won Tuesday.

BY KO JUN-TAE [ko.juntae@joongang.co.kr]

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