Despite Merck’s COVID-19 Pill Being Approved, Ivermectin Is Still Being Used

Many have debated whether the drug ivermectin is suitable for treating COVID-19. Who owns ivermectin?

Ade Hennis - Author

Nov. 9 2021, Published 8:03 p.m. ET

A person holding an ivermectin sign
Source: Getty Images

Merck has made significant progress with its COVID-19 pill, Molnupiravir. The U.S. has purchased over $2 billion of the pills in 2021, and Britain made history by becoming the first country to approve Molnupiravir for treating mild-to-moderate COVID-19. However, Merck also owns ivermectin, a controversial drug that some think could be used to treat patients with COVID-19.

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NFL star Aaron Rodgers recently faced heavy criticism for admitting to taking ivermectin to treat COVID-19, though he isn’t the first person to use the drug for those purposes.

Who owns ivermectin?

Merck & Co. (MRK) is the publicly traded company behind the development of ivermectin. Founded in 1891, Merck & Co. was originally a subsidiary of the Merck Group, a German pharmaceutical company that was founded in 1668.

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The Merck Group operates as a holding company now and owns Merck & Co. The company focuses on developing treatments and vaccines for cancers, infectious diseases, and cardiometabolic disorders. Robert M. Davis became CEO of Merck in July 2021 after Kenneth C. Frazier retired.

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What's ivermectin?

According to Merck, ivermectin is meant to treat infections caused by parasitic worms. There's a misconception that ivermectin is meant only for animals. However, it was developed by Merck in the 1970s for animal use and then approved for human use in 1987, according to WebMD. The animal version can’t be used for humans, and the human prescription isn’t suitable for animals.

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The drug meant for humans comes as a tablet or topical medication. It's less concentrated than the animal version, which is often used for large animals such as cows and horses. The drug is approved by the FDA for human use as a treatment for parasitic diseases such as intestinal parasites and scabies, an infection of the skin by small mites.

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In the U.S., ivermectin is available under the name of Stromectol. It can be administrated as a single dose or multiple doses. Merck states that the drug can have severe side effects, including fatigue, diarrhea, nausea, abdominal pain, dizziness, vertigo, tremors, constipation, and vomiting. Merck emphasizes that neither the animal nor human version of the drug is suitable for treating COVID-19.

The possibility of having severe reactions to the drug is one reason the company doesn’t recommend it being used for COVID-19. Merck has found no substantial evidence that ivermectin can be used for treating COVID-19 patients, nor that it can be used safely.


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