VERA FILES FACT CHECK: Marcoleta, Defensor insist on unproven claim that Ivermectin protects and treats COVID-19

Despite a warning from Facebook (FB) against pages spreading information that violates its community standards, partylist Reps. Michael “Mike” Defensor and Rodante Marcoleta have maintained that the antiparasitic drug ivermectin can be used against any variant of the coronavirus disease (COVID-19). The claim does not have sufficient scientific basis.

Defensor, who represents AnaKalusugan partylist, even wants Congress to investigate FB for “censorship” on his page over his “analysis” of a COVID-19 update on the internet.

Together with Marcoleta of SAGIP partylist, Defensor urged the public, in a video message published on July 17, to provide their contact information if they want free ivermectin tablets to “protect” them from variants of COVID-19.

Defensor in another post said there is a need to “educate” the people about the surge of the Delta variant, a more transmissible strain of the COVID-19 virus, and to prepare for a distribution of the antiparasitic drug for its prevention and treatment. (See VERA FILES FACT SHEET: Amid new COVID-19 virus variants, here’s how the Philippines can prevent another surge)

An advocate of ivermectin, Defensor said his FB page was temporarily “blocked” on Aug. 2 from posting “something that violates Facebook policies.”

Defensor, who is not a medical expert, still posted his interpretation of a study about the use of ivermectin in India after Facebook has restored access to his and his partylist’s pages.

In a July 9 media briefing, Health Undersecretary Maria Rosario Singh-Vergeire repeated an earlier explanation that the Department of Health (DOH) has “not yet found enough data based on scientific evidence” to support that ivermectin can help people infected with COVID-19.

Watch this video:

Vergeire cited a study by Clinical Infectious Diseases (CID) — the official publication of the Infectious Diseases Society of America — which concluded that ivermectin “is not a viable option to treat COVID-19 patients.”

Published on June 28, the researchers reviewed and analyzed 10 randomized controlled trials. “Our systematic review of randomized controlled trials showed that ivermectin did not reduce all-cause mortality, length of stay or viral clearance vs. controls in COVID-19 patients with mostly mild disease,” the study said.

In the sixth version of therapeutics and COVID-19 living guidelines released on July 7, the World Health Organization (WHO) said ivermectin may have “little or no effect on time to clinical improvement (low certainty evidence).”

It also said the treatment data on ivermectin has a “high degree of uncertainty” due to trials having substantially fewer patients and events compared with the counterpart drugs for testing.

The guideline development group reviewed pooled data from 16 randomized controlled trials consisting of 2,407 individuals. However, it pointed out in a March 31 article that the study did not look at the use of ivermectin for the prevention of COVID-19.

Public health experts convened by international nonprofit organization Meedan told VERA Files Fact Check that “no studies have been published comparing the impact of the Ivermectin against the four notable circulating variants (Alpha, Beta, Gamma and Delta) of COVID-19.”

Further, Meedan said ivermectin has mainly been evaluated for “the treatment of COVID-19, rather than prevention of the virus.”

The European Medicines Agency (EMA) cautioned against the use of ivermectin for “prevention or treatment of COVID-19 outside randomised clinical trials.”

In a review of evidence on its use, EMA said “ivermectin could block the replication of SARS-CoV-2 (the virus that causes COVID-19), but at a much higher concentration than the currently authorized doses.”

It added that results from clinical studies are “varied,” citing that some show either no benefit or have potential benefit.

“Most studies EMA reviewed were small and had additional limitations, including different dosing regimens and use of concomitant (accompanying) medications. EMA therefore concluded that the currently available evidence is not sufficient to support the use of ivermectin in COVID-19 outside clinical trials,” it said in a news release.

Citing the spread of misinformation about ivermectin, the United States (U.S.) FDA warned against taking large doses of the anti-parasitic drug, which can cause side effects such as nausea, vomiting, diarrhea, low blood pressure, allergic reactions, problems with balance, seizures, coma and even death.

“The FDA has not reviewed data to support use of ivermectin in COVID-19 patients to treat or to prevent COVID-19; however, some initial research is underway. Taking a drug for an unapproved use can be very dangerous,” the U.S. FDA said in its March 5 update.

DOH has allotted P22 million for an ivermectin clinical trial in the Philippines in the context of treating patients with asymptomatic or non-severe COVID-19. This is scheduled to start by August, as reported by Manila Bulletin on July 23.

Aside from the clinical trial, at least six hospitals were granted a compassionate special permit as of May to use ivermectin on COVID-19 patients.

The video published on July 17 was reviewed and removed by FB for violating its COVID-19 related policies.

Under FB’s community standards, it removes misinformation that “guaranteed cures or prevention methods for COVID-19.”

This includes “claims that for the average person, something can guarantee prevention from getting COVID-19 or can guarantee recovery from COVID-19 before such a cure or prevention has been approved: consuming or inhaling specific items, medical or herbal remedies, and external remedies for the outer body or skin,” the FB COVID-19 policy update said.

Defensor’s posts published on July 17 and 18 have gained a combined 14,900 views and 3,500 interactions as of July 31, before the first video was taken down.

The posts' interactions include comments from netizens with their personal contact information that might put them at risk for computer-related identity theft or online scams. (See VERA FILES FACT CHECK: Fake FB pages, identity theft, and your personal data amid the pandemic)

VERA Files Fact Check has previously fact-checked related misinformation about ivermectin:


Sources

AnaKalusugan Partylist Cong. Mike Defensor official Facebook, Tumataas ang mga kaso ng covid-19 sa ating mga probinsya…, July 17, 2021 (archived)

AnaKalusugan Partylist Cong. Mike Defensor official Facebook, Issue: Censorship sa Facebook, Aug. 2, 2021

AnaKalusugan Partylist Cong. Mike Defensor official Facebook, Ang Delta variant ay apat na beses na mas nakakahawa kaysa sa orihinal na variant na nagmula sa Wuhan, July 18, 2021 (archived)

World Health Organization, Episode #45 - Delta variant, July 5, 2021

Yale School of Public Health official Facebook, What to know about the Delta variant,

ABS-CBN News, Mike Defensor blocked from Facebook, seeks probe for 'censorship', Aug. 2, 2021

GMA News Online, Defensor claims Facebook blocked him after COVID-19 ‘analysis’, Aug. 2, 2021

Inquirer.net, Defensor’s FB page faces shutdown after ivermectin post; solon cries censorship, Aug. 2, 2021

AnaKalusugan Partylist Cong. Mike Defensor official Facebook, Panoorin ang testimonya..., Aug. 9, 2021

Department of Health YouTube, DOH Beat COVID-19 Media Forum, July 9, 2021

Oxford Academic, Ivermectin for the Treatment of Coronavirus Disease 2019: A Systematic Review and Meta-analysis of Randomized Controlled Trials, June 28, 2021

World Health Organization, Therapeutics and COVID-19 Living Guideline: Ivermectin, March 31, 2021

World Health Organization, Therapeutics and COVID-19 Living Guideline: Ivermectin. pg 17-20, March 31, 2021

Meedan Health Desk, Is ivermectin a proven treatment for COVID-19?, Aug. 3, 2021

European Medicines Agency, EMA advises against use of ivermectin for the prevention or treatment of COVID-19 outside randomised clinical trials, March 22, 2021

United States Food and Drug Administration, Why You Should Not Use Ivermectin to Treat or Prevent COVID-19, March 5, 2021

Presidential Communications Operations Office, Talk to the People of President Rodrigo Roa Duterte on Coronavirus Disease 2019 (COVID-19), May 5, 2021

Philstar, DOST shells out P22 million for Ivermectin clinical trials, May 6, 2021

Inquirer.net, ‘Why should PH pay for drug trial?’, May 7, 2021

Business Mirror, Govt allots P22 Million for clinical trials on Ivermectin as Covid-19 treatment, May 6, 2021

Manila Bulletin, PH’s Ivermectin clinical trials to start in August, July 23, 2021

GMA News Online, 6 hospitals received compassionate permit for ivermectin use vs. COVID-19 —FDA, May 5, 2021

CNN Philippines, Sixth hospital gets compassionate special permit to use ivermectin vs. COVID-19, May 5, 2021

Inquirer.net, FDA: 6 hospitals now have special permit to use ivermectin, May 5, 2021

Facebook Help Center, COVID-19 and Vaccine Policy Updates & Protections: Guaranteed cures or prevention methods for COVID-19, Accessed Aug. 16, 2021


(Guided by the code of principles of the International Fact-Checking Network at Poynter, VERA Files tracks the false claims, flip-flops, misleading statements of public officials and figures, and debunks them with factual evidence. Find out more about this initiative and our methodology.)

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There are no media reports nor official statements from Malacañang that support this.

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