Physicians prescribing ivermectin for COVID-19 despite FDA warning

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Some physicians continue to prescribe COVID-19 patients ivermectin, a drug most often used to treat parasitic worms in animals, despite warnings from the FDA that the drug should not be used to treat the virus. 

Ivermectin's use in humans is FDA approved only at very specific doses for some parasitic worms, as well as some topical formulations for head lice and skin conditions. It isn't an antiviral. 

Joseph Varon, MD, chief medical officer at United Memorial Medical Center in Houston, told the Houston Chronicle Aug. 26 that he has used ivermectin for COVID-19 patients since the start of the pandemic and since July has used it in all COVID-19 patients in the hospital. 

Dr. Varon gives patients a low dosage of ivermectin based on their weight, along with a cocktail of steroids and vitamins, the Houston Chronicle reported. He said it "makes a difference" in his patients and no one has overdosed or died in the hospital after ingesting it. 

"More importantly, my love for [ivermectin] is based on my personal use and good outcomes my patients have had,” Dr. Varon told the Houston Chronicle. "Once you see it work, it is difficult to deny its usefulness."

Paul Marik, MD, a professor of internal medicine at East Virginia Medical School, told the Houston Chronicle that a number of trials has shown ivermectin is effective against COVID-19, and claimed public health entities are recommending against it because "nobody is making money from it." 

But Dr. A. Clinton White, MD, a professor of infectious disease at University of Texas Medical Branch, told the Houston Chronicle that clinical trials that have suggested benefits from ivermectin were "deeply flawed and likely reflected biases." 

There have been no well-designed clinical trials showing ivermectin is effective at preventing or treating COVID-19 at any stage of the disease, according to the Houston Chronicle. 

In Arkansas, the state's medical board is investigating after a physician said he has prescribed ivermectin thousands of times for COVID-19 patients, CNN reported Aug. 27. 

Robert Karas, MD, a physician that treats inmates at the Washington County Jail in Fayetteville, Ark., defended his use of the drug, telling the Arkansas Democrat-Gazette: "In my medical judgment, weighing the known risks and side effect profile of ivermectin against the potential benefits supports the administration of ivermectin [which we obtained from a licensed pharmacist in dosages and compounds formulated for humans] to COVID-19 patients."

He told the TV station KFSM that he has prescribed the drug to family members and "thousands" of others, according to CNN

The FDA posted a warning Aug. 21 advising against the use of ivermectin, which is used most often to treat parasitic infections in animals, tweeting: "You are not a horse. You are not a cow. Seriously, y'all. Stop it."

The CDC warned healthcare providers and the public Aug. 26 about reports of severe illness associated with using ivermectin products to prevent or treat COVID-19. In some cases, people have ingested ivermectin products purchased without a prescription, including topical formulations and veterinary products, the CDC said. Side effects of ivermectin poisoning can range from gastrointestinal symptoms to hypotension and neurological effects.

Calls to poison control centers have been on the rise in recent months as some Americans have been self-administering ivermectin.

 

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