People call poison control after taking unapproved drug for COVID

Published: Sep. 1, 2021 at 4:36 PM EDT|Updated: Sep. 1, 2021 at 8:10 PM EDT
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LOUISVILLE, Ky. (WAVE) - Figures released by the Kentucky Poison Control Center show a sharp jump in calls from people taking the anti-parasite drug Ivermectin, thinking it is a cure for COVID-19.

The Food and Drug Administration explicitly warns it is not. Originally created just for animals, Ivermectin allowed for limited uses for human patients suffering from parasites.

“We’ve had a couple of cases where we’ve had to recommend callers to go to an emergency department for evaluation,” KPCC Director Ashley Webb said. “Typically, reporting to a poison control center is voluntary, so we know that if we’re seeing this trend, it’s much larger in the community. We might not get the call until they have negative effects from the medication.”

According to the KPCC, in the first eight months of 2021, 11 calls to the center were from people who intentionally ingested Ivermectin to treat COVID.

Depending on the dose, side effects can be debilitating and dangerous.

“G.I. side effects like nausea, vomiting, maybe diarrhea,” Webb said. “More significant effects though could be things like change in mental status, confusion, hallucinations, potentially seizures and coma, and in most of your cases, cardiovascular and respiratory collapse. The patient could die from this.”

Overdoses seem likely when people take drugs made for animals.

People chasing an unapproved cure for COVID have been browsing for veterinary products containing the drug so much that Amazon reports it is adjusting its autofill feature to make Ivermectin tougher to search for. Racehorses are typically dosed with Ivermectin three times a year. In the rare cases where it is allowed for human use, it requires a prescription and administered in much smaller doses.

”In livestock, it’s used to remove parasites from the G.I. system and from the body of animals,” UofL Hospital Associate Chief Medical Officer Dr. Hugh Shoff said. “We occasionally use it in humans to remove parasites as well as treatment for lice. But it’s not a frequent medication that we use.”

Citing the lack of evidence, the FDA strongly states the drug is not a cure for COVID. The agency has produced a warning sign for retailers to display when selling products made for animals. On Aug. 21, the FDA also published a tweet warning the public not to use Ivermectin to treat or prevent COVID-19.

The tweet said, “You are not a horse. You are not a cow. Seriously, y’all. Stop it.”

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