Ivermectin and COVID-19

By Cynthia Ding, PharmD Candidate, Class of 2022
The Ohio State University

December 01, 2021

Ivermectin

You may have heard about a medicine called ivermectin in the news lately. But why is an antiparasitic drug, discovered many years ago, now making headlines during the age of COVID-19?

Currently, ivermectin has shown no effectiveness against COVID-19, but people have been taking the medication at an alarming rate. Many have even taken the versions made for animals. This misuse has led to a rise in overdoses.

What is ivermectin used for?

The FDA has approved ivermectin for use against infections caused by blackflies and roundworms. Ivermectin is commonly used to treat lice, hookworm, and scabies as well.

Ivermectin can be used in dogs and cats to prevent heartworm. It is also prescribed for farm animals to treat parasites such as horses, pigs, sheep, goats, and cows.

Symptoms of an ivermectin overdose

Symptoms of taking too much ivermectin may include:

  • Nausea
  • Diarrhea
  • Vomiting
  • Confusion
  • Hallucinations
  • Seizures
  • Coma
  • Death

Most cases of ivermectin overdose can be mild. Many patients do require further evaluation and medical attention.

Poison control data

Poison control centers across the country have noticed a jump in reported incidents concerning ivermectin. Compared to before the pandemic, there has been a 400% increase in the number of ivermectin exposure calls in July 2021.

The National Poison Data System (NPDS) monitors data from all 55 poison control centers in the United States. It has reported a 245% increase in ivermectin exposure cases from July to August of this year.   

Since September of this year, the Arkansas Poison and Drug Information Center has received 24 calls about ivermectin. They have received only 25 ivermectin-related calls in the last four years. They have disclosed that most of the calls have been from those taking ivermectin products meant for animals.

Compared to July of this year, the number of calls about ivermectin at the Texas Poison Center Network (TPCN) has increased more than 150% in August. That represents more than three times the calls on ivermectin exposure they have received compared to last year. More than half of those were from people who took ivermectin to try to treat or prevent COVID-19.

According to Mississippi’s Poison Control Center, at least 70% of recent ivermectin-related calls were due to the consumption of animal versions bought at livestock supply centers.

Bottom line

Clinical trials are currently testing the effectiveness of ivermectin use in humans against COVID-19. However, the FDA has not approved it for use in preventing or treating COVID-19. Poison control centers across the nation are warning against the use of ivermectin without a doctor’s order, and especially the use of this medicine when meant for animals.

If you have more questions about medication safety, be sure to check out ScriptSave® WellRx’s Ask a Pharmacist service. You can also find expanded drug information at your fingertips in our free WellRx app.  

References:

  1. https://www.fda.gov/consumers/consumer-updates/why-you-should-not-use-ivermectin-treat-or-prevent-covid-19
  2. IVERMECTIN Clinical Pharmacology Drug Monograph (wellrx.com)
  3. https://emergency.cdc.gov/han/2021/han00449.asp
  4. https://www.npr.org/sections/coronavirus-live-updates/2021/09/04/1034217306/ivermectin-overdose-exposure-cases-poison-control-centers
  5. https://www.agriculture.com/news/ivermectin-intended-for-animals-is-not-a-treatment-for-covid-19
  6. https://www.dshs.texas.gov/HealthAdvisory-20210826.aspx
  7. https://msdh.ms.gov/msdhsite/_static/resources/15400.pdf
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