Since it was first discovered in the soil of a Japanese golf course in 1981, ivermectin has been gilded with the Nobel Prize, inducted into the World Health Organization’s List of Essential Medicines and virtually eliminated river blindness in 11 countries.
But that might not be why you’ve heard of it. Early in the pandemic, a number of significantly flawed studies on ivermectin’s possible antiviral effects led to interest in repurposing the drug to treat COVID-19 as it had been repurposed for other diseases from its original use as a treatment for horses and cows afflicted by parasitic worms.
Lobbyists have petitioned their elected officials to force pharmacists to fill ivermectin prescriptions, and people have been ingesting veterinary products containing ivermectin.
Unfortunately, taking ivermectin for COVID-19 is more likely to do severe harm than good. Jeffrey Aeschlimann, an infectious disease pharmacist at the University of Connecticut, takes us through a short history of ivermectin, from its promising beginnings to its painful present moment.