Ivermectin for onchocercal eye disease (river blindness)

Cochrane Database Syst Rev. 2001:(1):CD002219. doi: 10.1002/14651858.CD002219.


Background: It is believed that ivermectin (a microfilaricide) could prevent blindness due to onchocerciasis. However, when given to everyone in communities where onchocerciasis is common, the effects of ivermectin on lesions affecting the eye are uncertain and data on whether the drug prevents visual loss is unclear.

Objectives: The aim of this review is to assess the effectiveness of ivermectin in preventing visual acuity and visual field loss in onchocercal eye disease. The secondary aim is to assess the effects of ivermectin on lesions affecting the eye in onchocerciasis.

Search strategy: We searched the Cochrane Eyes and Vision Group specialised register, the Cochrane Controlled Trials Register - CENTRAL, MEDLINE, EMBASE, the reference lists of identified trials, the Science Citation Index and we contacted investigators, experts and pharmaceutical companies to identify additional trials.

Selection criteria: We included randomised controlled trials with at least one year follow up, comparing ivermectin at a dose of 150 micrograms per kilogram of body weight with either placebo or no treatment. Participants were people normally resident in endemic onchocercal communities with or without one or more characteristic signs of ocular onchocerciasis.

Data collection and analysis: Two reviewers independently extracted data and assessed trial quality. Study authors were contacted for additional information. Trials varied in design and setting, so no meta-analysis was done.

Main results: This review includes five trials with data from 3810 participants. All the trials compared ivermectin with placebo and were judged to be of moderate risk of bias in terms of methodological quality. No statistically significant difference was observed in any trial (reporting visual acuity outcome) between ivermectin and placebo groups for visual acuity loss.

Reviewer's conclusions: Questions about the effectiveness of ivermectin in preventing visual acuity loss have not been answered by best available evidence.

Publication types

  • Review
  • Systematic Review

MeSH terms

  • Anthelmintics / therapeutic use*
  • Humans
  • Ivermectin / therapeutic use*
  • Onchocerciasis, Ocular / drug therapy*
  • Randomized Controlled Trials as Topic


  • Anthelmintics
  • Ivermectin