No evidence showing ivermectin effectively against COVID-19, study finds

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In a recent study published in JAMA, researchers found even though clinical trials haven’t shown oral ivermectin works against COVID-19, doctors continue to prescribe ivermectin.

They found health insurers are heavily subsidizing the cost of those prescriptions.

The team calls for insurers to align their coverage of the drug with the level of medical evidence surrounding it—just like they do for other medications, tests, and procedures.

The study is from the University of Michigan and was conducted by Kao-Ping Chua, M.D., Ph.D.

In the study, the team used insurance data to study how much health plans paid for oral ivermectin in late 2020 and early 2021.

They identified and examined 5,600 prescriptions for oral ivermectin that weren’t written for a parasitic infection, the main reason that ivermectin is prescribed other than COVID-19.

The total cost per prescription was $58 for private plans, which paid 61% of this amount, or about $36.

The total cost per prescription was $52 for Medicare Advantage plans, which paid 74% of this amount, or about $39. The rest of the cost was paid by patients.

As a result of this coverage, the researchers estimate that United States private and Medicare plans may have paid $2.4 million for ivermectin prescriptions for COVID-19 in the week of August 13, 2021, alone.

If prescribing and insurance reimbursement were at that level for an entire year, insurers would spend nearly $130 million over a year on the drug, despite a lack of evidence it works.

Unless strong new evidence comes to light, the researchers argue that insurers should require doctors to justify prescribing ivermectin during the pandemic by filling out a prior authorization form.

While they acknowledge this could make it harder for patients to get ivermectin for its FDA-approved indications, they believe the number of these patients would be low.

As evidence, they pointed to a CDC study showing that only about 3,600 ivermectin prescriptions were filled each week in the U.S. before the pandemic.

The team says to be clear, clinicians may still prescribe ivermectin for COVID-19 and patients can choose to pay for these prescriptions themselves.

The point is simply that insurers shouldn’t cover these prescriptions unless ivermectin proves to be an effective COVID-19 treatment.

The U.S. Food and Drug Administration and the World Health Organization have both said oral ivermectin should not be used for COVID-19 purposes, except in clinical studies.

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