Poison Management Facilities are seeing a spate of calls about an overdose of Ivermectin: Coronavirus Updates: NPR

Health experts and medical groups are pushing to end the increased use of ivermectin, an anti-parasite drug, to treat COVID-19, with warnings that it can have harmful side effects and little evidence that it helps. Denis Farrell / AP Hide caption

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Denis Farrell / AP

Health experts and medical groups are pushing to end the increased use of ivermectin, an anti-parasite drug, to treat COVID-19, with warnings that it can have harmful side effects and little evidence that it helps.

Denis Farrell / AP

Poison control centers have seen a dramatic increase in calls from people self-treating with ivermectin, an animal anti-parasite drug that some falsely claim to treat COVID-19.

According to the National Poison Data System (NPDS), which gathers information from the country’s 55 poison control centers, there was a 245% increase in reported exposure cases from July to August – from 133 to 459.

Meanwhile, emergency rooms across the country are treating more patients who have taken the drug, convinced by false and misleading information posted on the internet by talk show hosts and political leaders. Most patients overdose on a version of the drug designed to treat parasites in cows and horses.

Joe Rogan says he had COVID-19 and was taking the drug ivermectin

The worrying trend has been rising since early 2021 – despite warnings from state health officials and the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention before taking ivermectin. According to the NPDS, 1,143 cases of ivermectin exposure were reported between January 1 and August 31. That means an increase of 163% compared to the same period last year.

Ivermectin was discovered in 1975 and is approved for use in humans to treat infections caused by some parasitic worms, head lice, and skin conditions such as rosacea. When taken in appropriate, prescribed doses, it can be very effective and is included on the World Health Organization’s list of Essential Medicines.

But after some clinical trials at the start of the coronavirus pandemic, the Food and Drug Administration says the “data currently available does not show ivermectin is effective against COVID-19”.

Cases of exposure are increasing across the country

In Kansas, the Department of Health and Environment urges residents to ignore false information about ivermectin’s effectiveness against COVID-19.

“Kansans should avoid taking drugs intended for animals and only use ivermectin as directed by their doctor,” said Lee Norman, secretary of the department, earlier this week.

In Mississippi, a state with the second lowest vaccination rate in the country for the coronavirus, the state’s Department of Health issued a warning in August about the surge in poison control calls. The department said at least 70% of recent calls to the state poison control center were related to people taking some version of the drug intended for farm animals.

The Minnesota poison control system addresses the same problem. According to the department, only one case of ivermectin exposure was reported in July, but that number rose to nine in August. Kentucky has seen similar increases. Thirteen classes of abuse were reported that year, Ashley Webb, director of the Kentucky Poison Control Center, told the Louisville Courier-Journal.

“75% of the calls were from people who bought ivermectin from a feed store or farm store and self-treated with the animal product,” said Webb. The other 25% were people who had a prescription, she added.

“You’re not a horse. You’re not a cow. Seriously, all of you. Stop that,” the FDA said in another warning late last month.

Mississippi is asking people to stop using a veterinary drug to treat COVID-19

Those who have a prescription from a healthcare provider should only “fill it out through a legitimate source such as a pharmacy and take it exactly as directed,” as the agency directs. It also warned that large doses of the drug “are dangerous and can cause serious harm,” saying that doses of ivermectin made for animals could contain ingredients harmful to humans.

The agency added, “Even levels of ivermectin for approved human uses can interact with other drugs such as blood thinners. You can also overdose on ivermectin, which can cause nausea, vomiting, diarrhea, hypotension (low blood pressure) and allergic reactions “(itching and hives), dizziness, ataxia (balance problems), seizures, coma and even death.”

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