Ivermectin: Horse dewormer dangerous for humans, ineffective COVID-19 treatment

Coronavirus

Nevada Poison Control has reported an increase in calls concerning people who say they were exposed to ivermectin, even as doctors and government agencies warn that its usage is not approved to treat COVID-19. (KLAS)

(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 drug, which can be in oral or topical, is 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.

Animal-specific concentrations, like those that may be available at livestock stores, are intended for large animals like horses and elephants, so these doses 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.

Last week, the FDA tweeted in response to the rise of ivermectin use, saying: “You are not a horse. You are not a cow. Seriously, y’all. Stop it.”

The Mississippi Department of Health was recently 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.”

Follow KXAN’s Russell Falcon on Twitter @RussellFalcon for more coronavirus updates.

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