Supporter of President of Brazil Jair Bosonaro holds large boxes of Ivermectin at Esplanada dos Ministrios, May 15, 2021 in Brasilia. Andressa Anholete/Getty Images
Ivermectin is an anti-parasitic drug that is commonly prescribed in Brazil.
Brazilians believed that ivermectin could also be used to treat COVID-19 early in the pandemic.
One ICU doctor stated that "We Brazilians had learnt the hard way that ivermectin did not work."
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Brazilians used to spend $30 per head for what they called the "kit CoviD."
It contained vitamins and other pills, which President Jair Bolsonaro referred to as early treatment for COVID-19. This was well before vaccines were widely available to reduce and prevent coronavirus infections.
The antiparasitic tablets ivermectin and hydroxychloroquine were two of the "kit" drugs.
Brazilian authorities launched an app called TrateCov ("TreatCov[id]") in English), which recommended the same seven drugs to all users. (The evidence for this protocol was heavily based on data from Dr. Flvio Caegiani, an American-based propaganda machine for ivermectin.
Brazilians soon discovered, through their own heartbreaking personal experiences, the limitations of COVID-19 treatment with ivermectin. Brazil experienced some of the worst deaths in its history in the late 2020s and early 2021, even though it was heavily ivermectin-dosed. The more transmissible variant P1 spread quickly throughout the country.
"Look at Brazil," Natlia Taschner (a Brazilian microbiologist, researcher scholar at Columbia University in New York City), said. Then, ask yourself: If this drug worked, would Brazil still be in such dire straits?
Ivermectin was used in entire cities - it did not work
On November 21, 2020, a COVID-19 cemetery was established in Manaus, Brazil. Michael Dantas/AFP via Getty Images
Brazil's ivermectin strategy was so popular that whole towns used it. Ivermectin can be purchased in most pharmacies throughout the country and is very affordable.
Ivermectin became free for all Itajai residents in July 2020. This was to the tune $826,000 USD in government spending. Volnei Morastoni the Mayor of Itajai said that ivermectin was just "one more weapon" in our fight against coronavirus.
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Infection rates rose rapidly and some people began taking too much medicine daily in an attempt to prevent COVID-19. However, liver failure can occur in rare cases.
Some patients died after being unknowingly given "kit" drugs by private hospital doctors.
Dr. Kevan Akrami, an infectious diseases and critical care physician in Salvador's northeastern city, stated that "the [ivermectin] prescribing practices didn’t upend the tragedy in COVID here, Brazil in terms of preventing infection, preventing hospitalizations and then preventing death." "Whether someone was taking it or not did not seem to impact whether they were hospitalized or died from COVID.
Researchers suspect that COVID deaths could have been caused by other factors, such as the fact that some people assumed they were immune to infection from ivermectin and discarded their masks.
Taschner stated that there was a political motivation behind it to make people feel secure so they could continue their normal lives.
Manaus' hospitals ran out of oxygen in January as it had one of the highest mortality rates in the country.
"I have seen many patients who were on ivermectin, and they are still in the ICU."
ICU Dr. Ana Carolina Antonio working in Porto Alegre (Brazil), July 2021. Photo by Ana Antonio.
Dr. Ana Carolina Antonio works in a Porto Alegre government hospital, Brazil. She told Insider that many of her ICU patients used ivermectin to treat their symptoms. Some were trying to prevent COVID-19.
Their strategy did not work.
Antonio said that she had estimated that about 70% of the ICU patients admitted to her hospital during the deadly second wave of ICU deaths (in late 2020/early 2021) had been given ivermectin. She also regretted that "most of those patients have already died."
Half of her critically ill patients died. 80% of ventilated patients did not make it, regardless if they had tried ivermectin.
She described the pain of the situation as "indescribable."
She said, "I have never seen so many young, healthy patients die." "I've already seen many patients who were on ivermectin, and are still in the ICU for COVID-19."
Antonio told the wives of patients that Antonio was "my husband's old" and had "children like mine" to tell them their spouse was dead.
She was worried about her family getting sick. Her husband, who wasn't a healthcare worker at the time, was also concerned. She said that he is now vaccinated.
Brazilians want vaccines and not more ivermectin.
Brazilians protest against Jair Bolsonaro their president. They demand vaccines and call attention to more than 200 people who were killed by coronavirus in Brazil on January 8, 2021. (The death toll from COVID-19 is currently at 600,000. Sergio Lima/AFP via Getty Images
In the time that has passed, attitudes about ivermectin changed quickly.
Akrami stated that "in the absence of evidence we'll try certain items." "But at this stage in the pandemic we don't really have any reason for prescribing ineffective medicines for treatment or prophylaxis."
The government is now removing the "kit", which was once widely prescribed and self-dosed in Cuiaba (Macap), Natal, Manaus, and Natal. Brazil now has a new health minister, a cardiologist who took over from a general in the military. Vaccines are available more widely.
Antonio spoke of the time since vaccinations were introduced. Antonio stated that there has been a significant decrease in hospital admissions and cases. Brazilians had to discover that ivermectin wasn't working in the most difficult way possible.
According to a poll conducted in May 2021, more than 9 out 10 Brazilians claim they have been vaccinated or plan to get them.
Akrami stated that "Across political divides most people are still being rational and saying, ‘I should get vaccinated for my own protection,’" Akrami added. "It's a proud tradition to get vaccinated in this country. It's almost like a civic duty.
Itajai Mayor Morastoni has a Facebook page that is filled with information about how to get vaccinated and celebrations of milestones in vaccines. Since January, when ivermectin was first administered to city health workers, he hasn't mentioned it once.
Taschner stated that "people are tired of all the lies and manipulation and the promotion miracle cures that don't work."
Although it is possible that ivermectin may one day play some role in COVID-19 treatment efforts, it doesn't look very promising.
On January 17, 2021, Indigenous Kaimbe, Vanusa Costa Santos was inoculated at a hospital near Sao Paulo (Brazil) with the CoronaVac Sinovac Biotech COVID-19 vaccination. Nelson Almeida/AFP via Getty Images
Major health agencies, including the World Health Organization (WHO) and the US National Institutes of Health (NIH), have not yet decided whether ivermectin is effective in treating or preventing COVID-19.
There are more conclusive studies in the pipeline, but the most recent rigorous research on ivermectin and COVID-19 does not look promising.
New protocols have been issued by the Brazilian government for COVID-19 treatment. They recommend that hospitalized patients not use ivermectin because there's no evidence to support it.
Antonio stated, "It might seem interesting," referring to studies that showed that ivermectin could kill COVID-19, in a petri dish. "But in humans, there are many complex pathways competing for the virus."
It is possible that the antiparasitic may be used with other drugs in combination to treat COVID. This could help speed up recovery in the initial stages.
However, other treatment options such as Merck's new drug appear to be far more promising in human trials.
Note, UK and US are not the same thing
Ivermectin can be used to treat both animals and humans. It is used mainly for deworming. AP Photo/Mike Stewart, AP Photo/Ted Warren
Antonio stated that it was "to my surprise" that many countries, including the UK and US, are now "becoming insane for" ivermectin. According to August data from CDC, weekly prescriptions for the drug have risen more than 2,300% in the US since the pandemic.
She said, "I thought it was Brazilian stuff."
It's tempting, when fear and frustration are rife, to place one's faith on a simple pill or kit that will end all suffering.
Akrami stated that they are not snake oil salesmen anymore.
Instead, rigorous research is used to determine which treatments are effective in improving a patient's condition.
"What's the harm?" Taschner asked. "What's the harm?" is the most common argument for unproven treatments such as ivermectin, Taschner stated. It gives people false security. They feel secure even though they aren't. This makes people turn away from the only thing that can make them feel safe: vaccination.
She advised, "Take a hard, objective look at Brazil realistically" and then draw your own conclusions.
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