Ivermectin prescriptions for COVID-19 ineffective, yet covered by insurance - study

Insurers are heavily subsidizing the prescription drug ivermectin, despite studies finding it ineffective for treating COVID-19.

Ivermectine (photo credit: Courtesy)
Ivermectine
(photo credit: Courtesy)

A new study found that even though evidence shows ivermectin is ineffective for treating COVID-19, the dispensation of the drug still surged in December 2020 in the US.

Doctors are continuing to prescribe ivermectin even though clinical trials have not yet proven the drug's effectiveness. Moreover, research indicated that health plans still covered most of ivermectin's cost, according to the University of Michigan.

The research letter, conducted by a team from the University of Michigan and Boston University, was published in the peer-reviewed Journal of the American Medical Association on Thursday, finding that "insurers heavily subsidized the costs of ivermectin prescriptions for COVID-19, even though economic theory holds that insurers should not cover ineffective care."

Studies showed that plans paid 61% to 74% of the cost, or about $36 to $39 per prescription.

 Pat Mendoza, co-owner of the restaurant Monica's Trattoria, wears a shirt reading ''Everybody has to die sometime'' while speaking to the crowd at a protest against coronavirus disease (COVID-19) vaccine mandates in Boston, Massachusetts, US, January 5, 2022.  (credit: REUTERS/BRIAN SNYDER) Pat Mendoza, co-owner of the restaurant Monica's Trattoria, wears a shirt reading ''Everybody has to die sometime'' while speaking to the crowd at a protest against coronavirus disease (COVID-19) vaccine mandates in Boston, Massachusetts, US, January 5, 2022. (credit: REUTERS/BRIAN SNYDER)

Researchers estimated that "US private and Medicare plans may have paid $2.4 million for ivermectin prescriptions for COVID-19 in the week of August 12, 2021, alone." They found that Medicare and private insurers wasted an estimated $130 million last year on ivermectin prescriptions for COVID-19.

Kao-Ping Chua, M.D., Ph.D., the University of Michigan healthcare researcher who led the study, said, "Insurers usually don’t cover ineffective treatments, or at least make patients pay for most of the cost.”

Chua explained that the study shows insurers are handling these prescriptions differently than others, resulting in insurers "reducing barriers to an ineffective drug that some are using as a substitute for the COVID-19 vaccination or evidence-based treatments."

This could actually be raising insurers' own costs for COVID-19 complications, as people are substituting this ineffective drug for vaccination.

Chua finds it odd that insurers are covering an ineffective treatment like ivermectin. The study's authors are calling on "insurers to align their coverage of the drug with the level of medical evidence surrounding it."

"As with the entire crusade against COVID vaccination, promoting ivermectin is a reckless attack on public health and a disservice to victims who are duped into making bad choices for their health and safety", the Los Angeles Times reported.

"Ivermectin has become just one more item in the medicine chest promoted by the anti-vaccine crowd." The LA Times said the most serious study found [ivermectin] has "no effect whatsoever" on COVID-19.

Chua told The LA Times that he was prompted to conduct his study after reading the CDC’s estimate of 88,000 ivermectin prescriptions in mid-August.

"I thought to myself, 'I hope insurance is not paying for that.' But it is, and our entire healthcare system is shouldering the burden."