The Health Information and Quality Authority (HIQA) has today published its advice to the National Public Health Emergency Team (NPHET) on interventions and modifiable health-related risk factors to prevent COVID-19 or to reduce the risk of serious COVID-19 disease.
HIQA examined 46 cohort studies which focused on modifiable health-related risk factors. While there are mixed results reported, in general maintaining a healthy weight, not smoking, exercising often, being Vitamin D sufficient and moderating alcohol consumption, have beneficial effects on general health and may reduce the risk of poor outcomes from COVID-19.
Interventions considered included drug (excluding vaccines) and non-drug interventions. HIQA found that there was a lack of high quality evidence to suggest that any of the examined interventions were effective at reducing the risk of COVID-19.
HIQA identified five relevant controlled drug trials, four of which considered ivermectin and one which considered bamlanivimab. HIQA found insufficient evidence on whether ivermectin (conventionally used to treat parasitic worm infestations) or bamlanivimab (an immune therapy) can be safely used to prevent or reduce the severity of COVID-19. It therefore has advised these drugs should not be used outside of well-designed, regulated clinical trials.
The European Medical Agency (EMA) has strongly advised against the use of ivermectin to prevent or treat COVID-19. While bamlanivimab has been approved by the EMA for emergency use in treating patients with severe COVID-19 disease, it is not approved to prevent COVID-19.
Dr Máirín Ryan, HIQA’s Deputy CEO and Director of Health Technology Assessment, said: “There are potential risks associated with all interventions and anything recommended to the Irish public, will require robust assessment to ensure that it is safe as well as being effective. This is important given the serious risk of harm associated with unproven interventions.
While we examined 51 studies, we identified a further 60 trials which are planned or ongoing.
This review did not specifically look at COVID-19 vaccines, however, there are large high quality controlled trials as well as population-level data to show that they are effective in preventing serious disease. We would encourage anyone who has the opportunity to avail of the COVID-19 vaccine to do so, as it continues to be the most effective safeguard against serious illness due to COVID-19.”
Dr Ryan, continued: “As restrictions begin to ease and individuals are vaccinated, it is important to empower individuals to take ownership of their health, and to highlight that small steps can lead to benefits in health status. These include working towards a healthy weight and exercising often.”
This advice is accompanied by an evidence synthesis report. Read the latest advice from the link at the top of the page.