LAKELAND, Fla. (WFLA) — While pockets of the population have been using Ivermectin, an anti-parasitic drug, to treat COVID-19 against mainstream medical advice, Lakeland Regional Health is helping to find out if it’s actually effective.

The medical center is participating in ACTIV-6, “The Randomized Trial to Evaluate Efficacy of Repurposed Medications,” funded by the National Institutes of Health in partnership with the Duke Clinical Research Institute and the Vanderbilt University Medical Center.

In addition to Ivermectin, which has FDA approval for use to fight infections from parasites, the study also includes Fluticasone, which treats asthma, and Fluvoxamine, which is often prescribed for depression.

“The study is really about looking at medications that don’t have to go through FDA approval that are already approved and use them to treat COVID,” said Dr. Timothy Regan, president and Chief Medical Officer at Lakeland Regional Health.

Polk County commissioners have spoken out in support of access to Ivermectin to treat or prevent COVID-19, which is a controversial view.

In September, Commissioner Neil Combee drafted a letter to Governor Ron DeSantis encouraging increased access, but it did not gain support from the full commission.

Commissioner Bill Braswell, who agreed to sign the letter alongside Combee, told 8 On Your Side he took Ivermectin for nine months until he could be vaccinated in March 2021.

“Quite frankly, I’ve never heard of anybody dying who took it,” he said.

At the time, the Florida Department of Health Director Joy Jackson urged caution.

“Some medication and treatments have not been proven. So I would just use caution until we have some sort of validation from authorities that research this,” she said.

“There are not a ton of studies out there specific to Ivermectin that I’m aware of,” said Dr. Regan. “I have not seen any legitimate studies that have proven it to be beneficial.”

Dr. Regan said much of the discussion surrounding Ivermectin has become misconstrued.

“Physicians and clinicians are not against Ivermectin. They’re against the concept that people decide one day that they want to take a medication and it suddenly becomes trendy,” he said.

He said, without being monitored by a physician, a patient could take the wrong dosage, take it for too long or it could react poorly with other medications.

“Our job is to look at things scientifically, compare outcomes and do what’s right for patients,” said Dr. Regan.

When it comes to the trial, eligible participants must be 30 years of age or older, have COVID-19 and have at least two symptoms of the illness for seven days or less. Symptoms include fatigue, difficulty breathing, fever, cough, nausea, vomiting, diarrhea, body aches, chills, headache, sore throat, nasal symptoms, and/or new loss of sense of taste or smell.

They cannot be hospitalized.

They will be asked if they want to participate in the trial only after presenting to the Lakeland Regional Health emergency room.

If they agree and are eligible, they will be contacted by the research team and one of the drugs, or a placebo, will be sent to the patient’s home.

“The fact that you have national institutions such as Duke and Vanderbilt reaching out to us to help them with this study is a testament to what we’re doing here,” Dr. Regan said.

“It is clearly an intent on our part to grow research in a very meaningful way,” said Deana Nelson, Senior Vice President of Administration and Corporate Initiatives at Lakeland Regional Health.

The hospital is ramping up its research work as it prepares to launch its residency program next year.

“We think it fits nicely with our ongoing effort to become a teaching hospital. This is a study that’s nationally-funded,” Nelson said.

Currently, there are 27 people participating in the study locally.

The goal is to have 15,000 people participate nationally. Currently, there are 2,000.

The study will be completed next year.