Ivermectin: Horse deworming tablets dangerous for humans and not approved COVID-19 treatment

Health

(KXAN) — After a recent resurgence in several states, health officials are warning residents to be aware of a dangerous of an unauthorized “treatment” for COVID-19 — often being taken with dangerous consequences.

It’s called ivermectin and it’s used to treat and prevent parasites in animals, the Food and Drug Administration explains. The tablets are not FDA approved for treatment of COVID-19 in humans and isn’t even an anti-viral drug — meaning it has no impact on the coronavirus. And because the large-concentration tablets are intended for large animals, these can be treacherous for humans.

In addition to not being authorized for treatment, there’s no evidence ivermectin treats COVID-19.

“There’s a lot of misinformation around, and you may have heard that it’s okay to take large doses of ivermectin. That is wrong.”

FDA

The FDA and several state officials say they’ve seen an uptick in calamitous use of the drugs, particularly tablets used to treat parasitic worms in horses. While ivermectin is approved for humans to treat certain skin conditions (rosacea) and certain external parasites like head lice, the FDA warns this ivermectin is different than the one used in animals.

On Friday, the Mississippi Department of Health was forced to send out a warning to residents about the dangers of the drug after several poisonings.

The Mississippi Poison Control Center said at least 70% of recent ivermectin-related calls are tied to people taking livestock or animal formulations they bought a livestock supply stores or through online markets.

Eighty-five percent of callers had mild symptoms — these include rash, nausea, vomiting, and abdominal pain — but one person needed evaluation because of how much they’d taken.

More severe dangers of ivermectin ingestion include neurologic disorders, seizures, coma and death.

Use of ivermectin should only be taken if prescribed by a doctor for an FDA-approved use. Regardless of the usage and prescription, the FDA warns ivermectin overdose is still possible. Possible interaction with other medications is also a possibility.

Despite these warnings, false claims of the drug’s effectiveness have proliferated on Facebook, with one such post showing a box of the drug clearly labeled “for oral use in horses only.”

Erie County Department of Health Commissioner Dr. Gale Burstein spoke, warning against the use of ivermectin, unless it is specifically prescribed by a doctor:

“Veterinary forms of ivermectin should never be ingested or used on humans. Inactive ingredients in these drugs can be harmful to humans, and active ingredients can be highly concentrated and meant for livestock, which can be many times the size of an average human being.”

“Messages shared on social media have driven people to consider very dangerous actions. COVID-19 has stirred up anxiety and fear in many people, and there are wells of misinformation on the Internet and in media that prey on those feelings. We cannot say this strongly enough: the best medical advice for you comes from your own physician, not Facebook memes, YouTube videos or group text messages.” 

“Doctors have access to COVID-19 treatments that have been studied and show promise, like monoclonal antibody therapy. And everyone ages 12 and over has access to COVID-19 vaccine, which proves itself every day as a safe and effective way to prevent moderate and severe illness from this virus.”

Dr. Gale Burstein

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