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San Antonio doctor uses hair lice medicine to treat COVID-19 patients; FDA warns more testing is needed

"It prevents COVID from replicating," Dr. Hoan Pho claims about the drug Ivermetcin. "And it also decreases the viral load."
Credit: KENS 5

SAN ANTONIO — As hospitalizations surge in Bexar County, one San Antonio doctor is using a head lice drug that he believes is keeping his COVID-19 patients from ending up in the hospital.

Ivermectin is considered to be a safe drug to treat different types of parasitic infections in humans and animals, including lice, but is not FDA-approved for other uses.

However, Dr. Hoan Pho said when ivermectin is combined with other drugs, this medicine is working to treat his patients who have contracted COVID-19.

The FDA recognizes ivermectin has shown some effectiveness in a laboratory setting, but additional testing is needed, as the results from trials are still limited, according to the agency's website.

VERIFY: What is ivermectin and what does FDA think about it as a possible COVID-19 treatment?

Pho specializes in internal medicine and cites a study suggesting that the anti-parasitic drug can kill the coronavirus within 48 hours in a lab setting.

"It prevents COVID from replicating," he said. "And it also decreases the viral load."

The drug is widely available and runs about $20. Within the last month, Dr. Pho started using the drug on his patients.

"About 50-60 patients, there is no hospitalization," he said. "Nobody has gotten sicker and has required oxygen to be hospitalized."

He said half those patients were over the age of 65. If a patient is sick with COVID, Pho prescribes ivermectin with a couple of other drugs and supplements. He does believe the key is ivermectin.

"Using all of these medicines, particularly the ivermectin, so far has helped the patients get better quicker and preventing them from getting pneumonia," he said.

Pho said he understands that some people will say there hasn't been a lot of research to back this treatment.

"There is going to be doubters out there listening to this story," he said. "Many of my colleagues are going to question this. But I ask them to read the articles. Now, I feel confident that we have some improving and emerging medications to help the patients."

Dr. Pho said there aren't a lot of side effects, but some of the common ones are a rash or a headache. He does advise if someone is interested in this treatment to speak with their doctor.

"I think we need to have more studies," he said. "We have to have bigger studies, bigger randomized controlled studies. But the data is there."