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Thomasville doctor offering “ivermectin therapy” for COVID, counter to FDA guidelines

Ivermectin is a dewormer: a drug used to treat parasitic infections in livestock.
Ivermectin is a dewormer used to treat parasitic infections in livestock.
Ivermectin is a dewormer used to treat parasitic infections in livestock.(WAFB)
Published: Aug. 24, 2021 at 5:47 PM EDT
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THOMASVILLE, Ga. (WCTV) – The phone is ringing off the hook at a Thomasville doctor’s practice as she offers the anti-parasitic drug ivermectin to prevent or treat COVID-19.

A staffer who answered the phone Tuesday said Dr. Martha Ward’s practice is getting 400 calls a day about what they’re calling “ivermectin therapy.”

But families of some patients are disturbed by the doctor’s use of the drug.

In a phone conversation with WCTV, Dr. Ward confirmed she prescribes a three-milligram tablet that is taken once or twice per week.

“There’s a lot of evidence that shows (ivermectin) works very well,” Dr. Ward said.

Dr. Ward is an internist who says she’s been practicing for 41 years in Thomasville. She has a private practice and also works in the emergency room at Archbold Medical Center.

“(Ivermectin) has some anti-viral properties and anti-inflammatory properties, which are useful in COVID,” Dr. Ward said, “This is a treatment that I think helps. A lot of people I’ve used it on think it helps.”

She noted that the pills she prescribes are intended for human use, and are not the ivermectin products for livestock some people have been taking in hopes of preventing or treating COVID-19.

The doctor’s use of ivermectin runs counter to guidelines by the Food & Drug Administration and the World Health Organization.

“WHO advises that ivermectin only be used to treat COVID-19 within clinical trials. The current evidence on the use of ivermectin to treat COVID-19 patients is inconclusive,” according to the WHO website.

On its website, the FDA notes “Ivermectin tablets are approved at very specific doses for some parasitic worms, and there are topical (on the skin) formulations for head lice and skin conditions like rosacea. Ivermectin is not an anti-viral (a drug for treating viruses)” and notes “taking a drug for unapproved use can be very dangerous.”

“The FDA has clearly stated that they have not approved ivermectin for use in treating or preventing COVID-19 in humans,” said WCTV’s longtime medical consultant, Dr. Christie Alexander.

“There are studies underway looking at the use of ivermectin (as well as other medications) to treat COVID-19,” said Dr. Alexander. “Until then, let’s stick with what we know to prevent getting and spreading this dangerous virus - get vaccinated, wear your mask, wash your hands, and quarantine if you’ve been exposed,” the doctor wrote.

Dr. Ward noted that ivermectin has been used for decades as an anti-parasitic.

“Even the human doses that are used for parasites, lice, and skin conditions can interact with other medications, like blood-thinners,” warned Dr. Alexander.

Katherine Drabiak, an associate professor at The University of South Florida and medical ethicist, defended Dr. Ward’s decision to prescribe ivermectin.

“Physicians often prescribe medications for off-label purposes based on their professional judgment and experience. It is both common and legally appropriate as a general practice in medicine. To treat disease from emerging viruses, physicians look to their toolkit to see what they believe would work based on past practice of treating similar diseases,” Drabiak said, “Whether the FDA provides an Emergency Use Authorization to a particular drug, or whether clinical guidelines recommend (or recommend against) a particular drug is a different matter.”

When asked about evidence of its effectiveness against COVID, Dr. Ward pointed to the Frontline COVID-19 Critical Care Alliance, a small group of doctors promoting ivermectin and other treatments of COVID-19 via a non-profit organization and website.

The website’s disclaimer says it “should not be relied upon as medical, psychological, or other professional advice of any kind or nature whatsoever.”

WCTV also reached out to the Georgia Department of Public Health on use of ivermectin for COVID treatment.  A spokesperson said Georgia DPH will defer to the FDA.

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