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AN UPDATED VERSION OF THIS ARTICLE IS AVAILABLE: http://dx.doi.org/10.13140/RG.2.2.19703.75680 A recent peer reviewed meta-analysis evaluating ivermectin (Bryant et al, 2021) concluded that this antiparasitic drug is a cheap and effective treatment for reducing Covid-19 deaths. These conclusions were in stark contrast to those of a later study (Roman et al, 2021). Although (Roman et al, 2021) applied the same classical statistical approach to meta-analysis, and produced similar results based on a subset of the same trials data used by (Bryant et al), they claimed there was insufficient quality of evidence to support the conclusion Ivermectin was effective. This paper applies a Bayesian approach, to a subset of the same trial data, to test several causal hypotheses linking Covid-19 severity and ivermectin to mortality and produce an alternative analysis to the classical approach. Applying diverse alternative analysis methods which reach the same conclusions should increase overall confidence in the result. We show that there is overwhelming evidence to support a causal link between ivermectin, Covid-19 severity and mortality, and: i) for severe Covid-19 there is a 90.7% probability the risk ratio favours ivermectin; ii) for mild/moderate Covid-19 there is an 84.1% probability the risk ratio favours ivermectin. Also, from the Bayesian meta-analysis for patients with severe Covid-19, the mean probability of death without ivermectin treatment is 22.9%, whilst with the application of ivermectin treatment it is 11.7%. The paper also highlights advantages of using Bayesian methods over classical statistical methods for meta-analysis. creative commons license 2
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1
Bayesian Meta Analysis of Ivermectin Effectiveness in
Treating Covid-19 Disease
Martin Neil and Norman Fenton
Risk Information and Management Research
School of Electronic Engineering and Computer Science,
Queen Mary University of London
12 July 2021
Abstract
A recent peer reviewed meta-analysis evaluating ivermectin (Bryant et al, 2021) concluded
that this antiparasitic drug is a cheap and effective treatment for reducing Covid-19 deaths.
These conclusions were in stark contrast to those of a later study (Roman et al, 2021).
Although (Roman et al, 2021) applied the same classical statistical approach to meta-analysis,
and produced similar results based on a subset of the same trials data used by (Bryant et al),
they claimed there was insufficient quality of evidence to support the conclusion Ivermectin
was effective. This paper applies a Bayesian approach, to a subset of the same trial data, to
test several causal hypotheses linking Covid-19 severity and ivermectin to mortality and
produce an alternative analysis to the classical approach. Applying diverse alternative analysis
methods which reach the same conclusions should increase overall confidence in the result.
We show that there is overwhelming evidence to support a causal link between ivermectin,
Covid-19 severity and mortality, and: i) for severe Covid-19 there is a 90.7% probability the
risk ratio favours ivermectin; ii) for mild/moderate Covid-19 there is an 84.1% probability the
risk ratio favours ivermectin. Also, from the Bayesian meta-analysis for patients with severe
Covid-19, the mean probability of death without ivermectin treatment is 22.9%, whilst with the
application of ivermectin treatment it is 11.7%. The paper also highlights advantages of using
Bayesian methods over classical statistical methods for meta-analysis.
creative commons license
2
1. Introduction
A recent meta-analysis of the trials evaluating ivermectin (Bryant et al., 2021) was widely
welcomed by those who have argued that this antiparasitic drug is a cheap and effective
treatment for Covid-19 infections. The study concluded:
“Moderate-certainty evidence finds that large reductions in COVID-19 deaths are
possible using ivermectin. Using ivermectin early in the clinical course may reduce
numbers progressing to severe disease. The apparent safety and low cost suggest
that ivermectin is likely to have a significant impact on the SARS-CoV-2 pandemic
globally.”
These conclusions stand in stark contrast to those of a later meta-analysis (Roman et al.,
2021) which looked at a subset of the trials. They concluded:
In comparison to SOC or placebo, IVM did not reduce all-cause mortality, length of
stay or viral clearance in RCTs in COVID-19 patients with mostly mild disease. IVM
did not have effect on AEs or SAEs. IVM is not a viable option to treat COVID-19
patients.
This conclusion is not, however, based on the results of the statistical analysis of the data,
which were very similar to those of (Bryant et al., 2021); instead, as claimed in (Fordham &
Lawrie, 2021) it was based on a somewhat vague and possibly biased subjective assessment
of the quality of the trials themselves. Moreover, (Crawford, 2021) has highlighted errors in
the data and the analysis carried out by (Roman et al., 2021).
This paper applies a Bayesian approach, to a subset of the same trial data, to test several
causal hypotheses linking Covid-19 severity and ivermectin to mortality. Applying diverse
alternative analysis methods, which reach the same conclusions, should increase overall
confidence in the result.
A Bayesian approach also brings with it several advantages over the classical statistical
approaches applied to this trials data thus far. Firstly, it allows the evaluation of competing
causal hypotheses; so here we test whether Covid-19 mortality is independent of Covid-19
severity, treatment or both treatment and severity. Also, given that a causal link can be
established, a Bayesian approach can explicitly evaluate the strength of impact of that causal
link on mortality. These advantages can be obtained within a Bayesian meta-analysis
framework using a hierarchical model which can also take account of ‘zero’ frequency results
which are not estimable in the classical statistical framework. Finally, the Bayesian approach
to confidence intervals leads to the ability to directly interpret confidence intervals in a way
that does not rely on notions of repeated trials, making them easier to understand.
2. Trials Data Used
The trials data analysed in our meta-analysis is summarised in Table 1 and is based on (Bryant
et al., 2021) Figure 4 (which also provides the full references to the individual studies). In
contrast to (Bryant et al., 2021), we have made the following necessary changes:
3
We have excluded the study by (Niaee 2020)
1
in our analysis because a) the placebo
control applied in that group was not a true placebo; and b) the severe Covid-19.
patients were not separated from the mild/moderate Covid-19 patients in the trial.
The ivermectin group of the (Lopez-Medina 2021) trial had zero deaths in 200 patients,
not zero in 275 as stated in (Bryant et al., 2021).
Also note that the ivermectin and control groups of the (Ravkirti et al., 2020) study have 55
and 57 patients respectively not 57 and 58 as stated in (Roman et al., 2021).
Table 1: Trial data used in this Bayesian Meta-analysis
3. The Bayesian Meta-analysis
The Bayesian meta-analysis approach has several stages involving learning from data,
determining which causal hypotheses best explain this data, selecting the ‘best’ hypothesis
and then using this to estimate its impact. The stages are linked as follows:
A. Learn the mortality probability distribution from relevant trials for each hypothesis of
concern using a hierarchical Beta-Binomial model.
B. For each causal hypothesis use the model in stage A to learn the mortality probability
distributions relevant to that causal hypothesis.
C. For each causal hypothesis use the learnt probability distributions from stage B to
predict the observed data and calculate the likelihood of observing the data.
D. For all causal hypotheses compute the posterior probability of each hypothesis given
the likelihood of observing the data under that hypothesis and select the most likely
causal hypothesis that explains the data.
E. Estimate the magnitude of impact of the relevant variables, under the selected ‘best’
hypothesis, on mortality.
1
The full citations references for the studies are provided in (Bryant et al 2021) and are not repeated here.
Total Deaths Total Deaths
Elgazaar 2020 100 2100 20
Fonseca 2021 52 12 115 25
Gonzalez 2021 36 537 6
Hashim 2020 11 022 6
Okumus 2021 36 630 9
Total Deaths Total Deaths
Ahmed 2020 45 023 0
Babalola 2020 42 020 0
Chaccour 2020 12 012 0
Elgazaar 2020 100 0100 4
Hashim 2020 48 048 0
Lopez-Medina 2021 200 0198 1
Mahmud 2020 183 0180 3
Mohan 2021 100 052 0
Petkov 2021 50 050 0
Ravikirti 2021 55 057 4
Rezai 2020 35 134 0
Total 1225 30 1138 89
Severe Covid-19 trials
Ivermectin
Control
Mild/moderate Covid-19 trials
Ivermectin
Control
4
Full details and results are given in the Appendix. For further background information on this
type of Bayesian analysis see (Fenton & Neil, 2018).
The four hypotheses being tested (denoted  about the causal connections between
variables deaths (), Covid-19 Severity (), and Treatment (), are as follows:
 death is independent of Covid-19 severity or treatment
 death is dependent on Covid-19 severity only
 death is dependent on treatment only
 death is dependent on Covid-19 severity and treatment
These hypotheses are shown graphically in Figure 1.
Figure 1: Causal hypotheses 
From applying the analysis stages, A to D, the resulting posterior probability of these
hypotheses being true given the data is:

Hence, there is extremely convincing evidence that Covid-19 severity and treatment causally
influence mortality.
To estimate the magnitude of the impact of Covid-19 severity,, and Treatment,, on death,
we need to compute . Figure 2 shows the marginal probability distributions for
mortality for each of the combinations of severity and treatment and Table 2 shows the mean
and 95% confidence intervals.
5
Figure 2: Posterior marginal probability distributions for mortality from meta-analysis
Median
Mean
95% CI
0.107
0.117
(0.019, 0.275)
0.227
0.229
(0.125, 0.349)
0.0003
0.004
(1.4E-6, 0.0036)
0.012
0.0178
(7.18E-5, 0.068)
Table 2: Mean and 95% confidence intervals.
The  is the estimated mortality probability of ivermectin patients divided by the estimated
mortality probability of control patients. One of the advantages of the Bayesian approach is
that the shape and scale of the probability distribution for  can be directly calculated and
inspected whilst making minimal statistical assumptions. Figure 3 shows the marginal
probability distribution of . Note that the probability distribution  for mild/moderate Covid-
19 is heavily asymmetric because the lower bounds for treatment variable, , includes zero,
hence producing a zero-division computational overflow. For this reason, classical statistical
methods cannot easily estimate this quantity. However, we can instead use an arithmetically
alternative measure that does not suffer from this defect, risk difference, 
. The marginal probability distribution for  is also shown in Figure 3 and for
mild/moderate Covid-19 there is a clear modal spike around zero, and most of the probability
mass is closer to zero difference, but for severe Covid-19 most of the probability mass is
further from zero difference. This suggests our confidence in the evidence for ivermectin
treatment for severe Covid-19 is stronger than for mild/moderate Covid-19.
 
 
 
 
6
Figure 3: Posterior marginal probability distributions for  and  from meta-analysis
If the  is less than one, then this provides support for the hypothesis that the treatment is
effective (the lower the number the more effective) and if the upper bound of the confidence
interval for the  is less than one then it is concluded that the treatment is effective with that
level of confidence (95% in this case). From the marginal probability distributions shown in
Figure 2, we compute the risk ratio, , dependent on the severity of Covid-19 shown in Table
3.
Severe
Mild to Moderate

90.7%
84.1%
Table 3: Probability of risk ratio,  , favouring ivermectin vs control
The  results of (Bryant et al., 2021) and (Roman et al., 2021) together with the  results
from our Bayesian analysis are shown in Table 4.
 *
 95% CI
Roman et al, 2021 (all mild or moderate cases)
0.37
(0.12, 1.13)
Bryant et al, 2021 (mild or moderate cases)
0.24
(0.06, 0.94)
Bryant et al, 2021 (severe cases)
0.51
(0.22, 1.14)
Bryant et al, 2021 (all cases)
0.38
(0.19, 0.73)
Bayesian analysis, 2021 (mild or moderate cases)
0.34
(0.00, 26.0)
Bayesian analysis, 2021 (severe cases)
0.48
(0.08, 1.46)
Table 4: Summary of risk ratio results in (Roman et al, 2021),
(Bryant et al, 2021) and this Bayesian meta-analysis
4. Conclusions
This Bayesian meta-analysis has shown that the posterior probability for the hypothesis of a
causal link between, Covid-19 severity ivermectin and mortality is over 99%. From the
Bayesian meta-analysis estimates the mean probability of death of patients with severe Covid-
19 to be 11.7% (CI 12.6 34.75%) for those given ivermectin compared to 22.9% (CI 1.83
27.62%) for those not given ivermectin. For the severe Covid-19 cases the probability of the
7
risk ratio being less than one is 90.7% while for mild/moderate cases this probability it is
84.1%.
In our view this Bayesian analysis, based on the statistical study data, provides sufficient
confidence that ivermectin is an effective treatment for Covid-19 and this belief supports the
conclusions of (Bryant et al., 2021) over those of (Roman et al., 2021).
The paper has also highlighted the advantages of using Bayesian methods over classical
statistical methods for meta-analysis, which is especially persuasive in providing a transparent
marginal probability distribution for both risk ratio  and risk difference, . Furthermore, we
show that using  avoids the estimation and computational issues encountered using  ,
thus making full and more efficient use of all evidence.
References
Agena Ltd. (2021). AgenaRisk. Retrieved from http://www.agenarisk.com
Bryant, A., Lawrie, T. A., Dowswell, T., Fordham, E. J., Mitchell, S., Hill, S. R., & Tham, T. C.
(2021). Ivermectin for Prevention and Treatment of COVID-19 Infection: A Systematic
Review, Meta-analysis, and Trial Sequential Analysis to Inform Clinical Guidelines.
American Journal of Therapeutics. https://doi.org/10.1097/MJT.0000000000001402
Crawford, M. (2021). The Meta-Analytical Fixers: An Ivermectin Tale. Retrieved July 7, 2021,
from https://roundingtheearth.substack.com/p/the-meta-analytical-fixers-an-ivermectin
Fenton, N. E., & Neil, M. (2018). Risk Assessment and Decision Analysis with Bayesian
Networks (2nd ed.). CRC Press, Boca Raton.
Fordham, E. J., & Lawrie, T. A. (2021). Attempt to discredit landmark British ivermectin study.
Retrieved July 7, 2021, from HART Health Advisory & Recovery Team website:
https://www.hartgroup.org/bbc-ivermectin/
Roman, Y. M., Burela, P. A., Pasupuleti, V., Piscoya, A., Vidal, J. E., & Hernandez, A. V.
(2021). Ivermectin for the treatment of COVID-19: A systematic review and meta-analysis
of randomized controlled trials. MedRxiv, 2021.05.21.21257595.
https://doi.org/10.1101/2021.05.21.21257595
8
Appendix
The stages in the analysis are organised as follows:
A. Learn the mortality probability distribution from relevant trials for each hypothesis of
concern using a Beta-Binomial hierarchical model.
B. For each causal hypothesis use the model in stage A to learn the mortality probability
distributions relevant to that causal hypothesis.
C. For each causal hypothesis use the learnt probability distributions from stage B to
predict the observed data and calculate the likelihood of observing that data.
D. For all causal hypotheses compute the posterior probability of each hypothesis given
the likelihood of observing the data under that hypothesis and select the most likely
causal hypothesis that explains the data.
E. Estimate the magnitude of impact of the relevant variables, under that hypothesis, on
mortality.
For each hypothesis and combination of Covid-19 severity and treatment variable state we
learn the corresponding mortality probability distribution using a hierarchical Beta-Binomial
model (where is the number of studies, is the number of patients and is the number of
deaths in study ):
  





where the mortality probability, , is determined by two parameters, and that model the
global distribution of variables across the studies, where each is determined by its local
data .
An example of the structure of the Bayesian model used in steps A to C is shown in Figure 4,
as a Bayesian Network, where we learn the probability distribution for 
  from the relevant studies using data pairs  for deaths
and number of subjects in given trial.
9
Figure 4: Meta analysis Bayesian Network
Once we have learnt  from the data we need to determine how well the learnt
distribution explains that data under each hypothesis . Note that each hypothesis has
a different number of mortality probability parameters, ,determined by the number of states
for each variable for that hypothesis. So, for  we only have one probability to
determine. For  we have two mortality probabilities to consider, one for severe
Covid-19 and another for mild-moderate Covid-19, and so on.
As the number of mortality probability parameters to be estimated under each hypothesis
increases the smaller the amount of data available to estimate each one. This leads to greater
variance in predictions of the data when there are more parameters and, thus, models with
more parameters are penalised by Occam’s razor.
To test the predictions of the data under each hypothesis, , we use Bayes:

Here we assume the prior probabilities  are uniform and we can calculate 
as:


which is simply the product of likelihoods over all trials data, using the learnt variables for
the given hypothesis. Given the uniform prior assumption the posterior belief in each causal
hypothesis is simply: . The results are shown in Table 5.
10
Table 5: Summary statistics of distributions and resulting likelihood predictions
The above description takes us up to stage D and established the support for each causal
hypothesis. Here there was overwhelming support for hypothesis  and hence we use the
causal structure for this hypothesis to compute the necessary impact statistics at stage E:
- compute the risk ratio ().
- Compute the risk difference ().
- determine the probability of the risk ratio being less than one.
The relevant computations here are:


 


All calculations are carried out using AgenaRisk Bayesian network software (Agena Ltd,
2021). All models used are available on request and all can be run in the free trial version of
AgenaRisk.
Hypothesis
Median
Mean 95% CI Likelihood
Joint
likelihood
Posterior
probability
H1 P(Death) 1.11% 5.78% (0, 35.8) P(Data) 2.97E-28 2.97E-28 0.000
H2
P(Death | C = Severe) 16.52% 17.20% (5.5, 33.13) P(Data | C = Severe) 5.65E-13 1.29E-21 0.009
P(Death | C = Mild/Moderate) 0.31% 0.86% (0, 4.74) P(Data | C = Mild/Moderate) 2.29E-09
H3
P(Death | T = Ivermectin) 0.04% 3.37% (0, 23.35) P(Data | T = Ivermectin) 4.30E-11 6.86E-28 0.000
P(Death | T = Control) 3.63% 7.62% (0, 37.82) P(Data | T = Control) 1.60E-17
H4
P(Death | S = Severe, T = Ivermectin) 10.74% 11.71% (1.93, 27.62) P(Data | S = Severe, T = Ivermectin) 2.17E-06 1.40E-19 0.991
P(Death | S = Mild/Moderate, T = Ivermectin) 0.03% 0.42% (0, 3.13) P(Data | S = Mild/Moderate, T = Ivermectin) 1.24E-02
P(Death | S = Severe, T = Control) 22.65% 22.91% (12,6, 34.75) P(Data | S = Severe, T = Control) 3.95E-06
P(Death | S = Mild/Moderate, T =Control) 1.20% 1.78% (0, 6.89) P(Data | S = Mild/Moderate, T = Control) 1.32E-06
Likelihoo d of Data given p
Summary stat istics for lear nt p distribu tions
... On July 12, a preprint by Neil et al. described a Bayesian meta-analysis of ivermectin's effectiveness in COVID-19 [75]. ...
Preprint
Full-text available
Third part of the timeline covering a period from July 2021 to September 2021 *** Other parts: *** Part 0: https://www.researchgate.net/publication/348077948 *** Part 1: https://doi.org/10.13140/RG.2.2.13705.36966 *** Part 2: https://doi.org/10.13140/RG.2.2.16973.36326 *** Part 4: https://doi.org/10.13140/RG.2.2.26000.53767 *** Part 5: https://doi.org/10.13140/RG.2.2.35015.16807 *** Additional notes (Feb-Apr 2022): https://doi.org/10.13140/RG.2.2.24356.55682 ***
Article
Full-text available
Background We systematically assessed benefits and harms of the use of ivermectin (IVM) in COVID-19 patients. Methods Published and preprint randomized controlled trials (RCTs) assessing IVM effects on COVID-19 adult patients were searched until March 22, 2021 in five engines. Primary outcomes were all-cause mortality, length of stay (LOS), and adverse events (AE). Secondary outcomes included viral clearance and severe AEs. Risk of bias (RoB) was evaluated using Cochrane RoB 2·0 tool. Inverse variance random effect meta-analyses were performed. with quality of evidence (QoE) evaluated using GRADE methodology. Results Ten RCTs (n=1173) were included. Controls were standard of care [SOC] in five RCTs and placebo in five RCTs. COVID-19 disease severity was mild in 8 RCTs, moderate in one RCT, and mild and moderate in one RCT. IVM did not reduce all-cause mortality vs. controls (RR 0.37, 95%CI 0.12 to 1.13, very low QoE) or LOS vs. controls (MD 0.72 days, 95%CI −0.86 to 2.29, very low QoE). AEs, severe AE and viral clearance were similar between IVM and controls (all outcomes: low QoE). Subgroups by severity of COVID-19 or RoB were mostly consistent with main analyses; all-cause mortality in three RCTs at high RoB was reduced with IVM. Conclusions In comparison to SOC or placebo, IVM did not reduce all-cause mortality, length of stay or viral clearance in RCTs in COVID-19 patients with mostly mild disease. IVM did not have an effect on AEs or severe AEs. IVM is not a viable option to treat COVID-19 patients.
Article
Background: Repurposed medicines may have a role against the SARS-CoV-2 virus. The antiparasitic ivermectin, with antiviral and anti-inflammatory properties, has now been tested in numerous clinical trials. Areas of uncertainty: We assessed the efficacy of ivermectin treatment in reducing mortality, in secondary outcomes, and in chemoprophylaxis, among people with, or at high risk of, COVID-19 infection. Data sources: We searched bibliographic databases up to April 25, 2021. Two review authors sifted for studies, extracted data, and assessed risk of bias. Meta-analyses were conducted and certainty of the evidence was assessed using the GRADE approach and additionally in trial sequential analyses for mortality. Twenty-four randomized controlled trials involving 3406 participants met review inclusion. Therapeutic advances: Meta-analysis of 15 trials found that ivermectin reduced risk of death compared with no ivermectin (average risk ratio 0.38, 95% confidence interval 0.19-0.73; n = 2438; I2 = 49%; moderate-certainty evidence). This result was confirmed in a trial sequential analysis using the same DerSimonian-Laird method that underpinned the unadjusted analysis. This was also robust against a trial sequential analysis using the Biggerstaff-Tweedie method. Low-certainty evidence found that ivermectin prophylaxis reduced COVID-19 infection by an average 86% (95% confidence interval 79%-91%). Secondary outcomes provided less certain evidence. Low-certainty evidence suggested that there may be no benefit with ivermectin for "need for mechanical ventilation," whereas effect estimates for "improvement" and "deterioration" clearly favored ivermectin use. Severe adverse events were rare among treatment trials and evidence of no difference was assessed as low certainty. Evidence on other secondary outcomes was very low certainty. Conclusions: Moderate-certainty evidence finds that large reductions in COVID-19 deaths are possible using ivermectin. Using ivermectin early in the clinical course may reduce numbers progressing to severe disease. The apparent safety and low cost suggest that ivermectin is likely to have a significant impact on the SARS-CoV-2 pandemic globally.
Book
Since the first edition of this book published, Bayesian networks have become even more important for applications in a vast array of fields. This second edition includes new material on influence diagrams, learning from data, value of information, cybersecurity, debunking bad statistics, and much more. Focusing on practical real-world problem-solving and model building, as opposed to algorithms and theory, it explains how to incorporate knowledge with data to develop and use (Bayesian) causal models of risk that provide more powerful insights and better decision making than is possible from purely data-driven solutions. Features • Provides all tools necessary to build and run realistic Bayesian network models • Supplies extensive example models based on real risk assessment problems in a wide range of application domains provided; for example, finance, safety, systems reliability, law, forensics, cybersecurity and more • Introduces all necessary mathematics, probability, and statistics as needed • Establishes the basics of probability, risk, and building and using Bayesian network models, before going into the detailed applications A dedicated website contains exercises and worked solutions for all chapters along with numerous other resources. The AgenaRisk software contains a model library with executable versions of all of the models in the book. Lecture slides are freely available to accredited academic teachers adopting the book on their course.
The Meta-Analytical Fixers: An Ivermectin Tale
  • M Crawford
Crawford, M. (2021). The Meta-Analytical Fixers: An Ivermectin Tale. Retrieved July 7, 2021, from https://roundingtheearth.substack.com/p/the-meta-analytical-fixers-an-ivermectin
Attempt to discredit landmark British ivermectin study
  • E J Fordham
  • T A Lawrie
Fordham, E. J., & Lawrie, T. A. (2021). Attempt to discredit landmark British ivermectin study. Retrieved July 7, 2021, from HART Health Advisory & Recovery Team website: https://www.hartgroup.org/bbc-ivermectin/