9 things to know about ivermectin & COVID-19

Calls to poison control centers are on the rise across the country, as some Americans have been self-administering ivermectin, a drug usually prescribed to treat parasitic infections in animals, to treat COVID-19.

Below are nine things to know about the drug:

  1. There has been a growing interest in using ivermectin to treat COVID-19 in recent months, as cases rise and misinformation spreads online claiming the drug is a miracle cure for COVID-19.

  2. Ivermectin's use in humans is FDA-approved at very specific doses for some parasitic worms, as well as some topical formulations for head lice and skin conditions. The drug is not an antiviral.

  3. The FDA has recommended against the drug's use to prevent or treat COVID-19. The agency said taking any drug for an unapproved purpose is dangerous, and the drug could adversely interact with other medications. It also said ivermectin preparations for animals are very different from those approved for humans, and the drug can be lethal in large doses.

  4. Merck, ivermectin's manufacturer, has also warned against its use to treat COVID-19. The World Health Organization said the drug should only be used to treat COVID-19 in clinical trials.

  5. Some side effects linked to ivermectin include skin rash, nausea, vomiting, diarrhea, stomach pain, facial or limb swelling, sudden drop in blood pressure, severe skin rash potentially requiring hospitalization, liver injury, and neurologic adverse events such as dizziness, seizures and confusion, according to the FDA.

  6. In June 2020, research published in ScienceDirect described ivermectin's effect on the coronavirus in a laboratory setting. Laboratory studies such as this are often used in an early stage of drug development, and additional testing is needed to determine whether the drug is appropriate for COVID-19 prevention or treatment, according to the FDA.

  7. Mississippi's health department issued a warning Aug. 20, pleading with residents not to use ivermectin to treat COVID-19 after reporting 70 percent of the state's poison control center calls have been related to people taking ivermectin to treat COVID-19. At least one person was hospitalized due to ivermectin toxicity, according to the Mississippi Free Press.

  8. In May, Elmhurst (Ill.) Hospital administered ivermectin to a comatose COVID-19 patient after a judge's order to do so. No Elmhurst Hospital physicians agreed to administer ivermectin to her against the FDA's warning, so an outside physician administered treatment.

    On June 2, the patient's daughter, the person who brought the matter to court, tweeted that her mother had returned home. On June 14, she tweeted that her mother was no longer on a ventilator.

  9. There is currently a Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation-funded study underway to evaluate the effectiveness of cheap, widely available drugs in low- and middle-income countries that can be repurposed for COVID-19. It includes hydroxychloroquine, lopinavir/ritonavir, metformin, fluvoxamine and ivermectin.

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