The preprint endorsing ivermectin as a coronavirus therapy has been widely cited, but independent researchers find glaring discrepancies in the data

By Melissa Davey

The efficacy of a drug being promoted by rightwing figures worldwide for treating Covid-19 is in serious doubt after a major study suggesting the treatment is effective against the virus was withdrawn due to “ethical concerns”.

The preprint study on the efficacy and safety of ivermectin – a drug used against parasites such as worms and headlice – in treating Covid-19, led by Dr Ahmed Elgazzar from Benha University in Egypt, was published on the Research Square website in November.

It claimed to be a randomised control trial, a type of study crucial in medicine because it is considered to provide the most reliable evidence on the effectiveness of interventions due to the minimal risk of confounding factors influencing the results. Elgazzar is listed as chief editor of the Benha Medical Journal, and is an editorial board member.

The study found that patients with Covid-19 treated in hospital who “received ivermectin early reported substantial recovery” and that there was “a substantial improvement and reduction in mortality rate in ivermectin treated groups” by 90%.

But the drug’s promise as a treatment for the virus is in serious doubt after the Elgazzar study was pulled from the Research Square website on Thursday “due to ethical concerns”. Research Square did not outline what those concerns were.

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