Desperate to fight the pandemic of coronavirus, Brazilians were supported in an unbridled search for the vermifuge ivermectin last year. According to data from IQVA, the sale of the product on the market pharmaceutical exploded from January to November 2020, growing 466% over the same period in 2019.

The data show that around 42,3 million boxes of antiparasitic were sold last year. The peak in purchases was observed in July, when more than 12 million acquisitions of invermectin were added.

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Via health insurance, the recommended medicine for head lice has doubled. According to healh tech ePharma, the southeast was the region with the greatest increase in product (120%), accounting for 72% of national purchases from January to November last year. The Northeast registered an increase of 104%.

One of the explanations for this shopping boom was the suspension of retention of prescription for the product made by National Health Surveillance Agency (Anvisa), in September last year.

The decision was made after realizing that there would be no risk of shortage of the drug on the market and the antiparasitic was now sold only with the presentation of a simple prescription.

Facade of Anvisa
In September, Anvisa suspended the retention of a prescription for the purchase of the dewormer. Photo: Ascom / Anvisa

The price of invermectin also enables the mass purchase of the product by the population. A box of the medicine can cost from R $ 17 to R $ 22, depending on the region.

In addition, the product was widely defended by President Jair Bolsonaro - along with other products such as hydroxychloroquine and azithromycin - even without any health proof of the medicine's effectiveness in combating Covid-19.

Scientific evidence

Indicated for treatments of lice, scabies and infections derived from worms, ivermectin was adopted as medicine preventive for possible coronavirus contamination. However, there has been no study or scientific confirmation linking the product to virus prevention.

"Currently, the use of ivermectin for the treatment of Covid-19 is not indicated on its package insert and has not been approved by the Brazilian regulatory agency," said Abbott, one of the manufacturers of the antiparasitic in Brazil.

Batch of ivermectin
Even without scientific evidence against Covid-19, the product has been used to prevent coronavirus. Photo: Secom / Disclosure

Who also warns about the ineffectiveness of the medication against the coronavirus is Gonzalo Vecina Neto, professor at USP and founder of Anvisa. According to him, "there is no study that shows that ivermectin is used in addition to the treatment of lice".

For Neto, ivermectin generates a false sensation of immunity to the virus. As a large part of the Brazilian population does not have Covid-19 and about 80% of those infected are asymptomatic, adherents of the antiparasitic link immunity to the drug.

"The chance to take it and think it works is great," said Neto, also recalling that many medical groups use and recommend the product.

Street: Folha de S. Paul