The Slatest

Health Officials Warn Against Using Ivermectin for COVID-19 Amid Rise in Poisonings

Ivermectin tablets are approved at specific doses for some parasitic worms and other conditions, but not COVID-19.
Ivermectin tablets are approved at specific doses for some parasitic worms and other conditions, but not COVID-19. TajPharmaImages/Wikimedia Commons

The Food and Drug Administration had a simple message for Americans: Stop using a drug intended for getting rid of worms in livestock to treat or prevent COVID-19. “You are not a horse. You are not a cow. Seriously, y’all. Stop it,” the FDA tweeted from its official account. The federal agency issued its warning due to numerous reports of patients who were hospitalized “after self-medicating with ivermectin intended for horses.” Although the use of Ivermectin in humans is approved for certain ailments that doesn’t mean humans can safely take drugs meant for animals. “Animal drugs are often highly concentrated because they are used for large animals like horses and cows, which can weigh a lot more than we do,” the FDA warned. “Such high doses can be highly toxic in humans.”

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The warning from the FDA came as Mississippi officials are expressing particular concern that the state with the second-lowest vaccination rate in the country is seeing a surge in people seeking medical assistance for ivermectin poisoning. One person was hospitalized this week for ingesting the medication meant for animals. “Please don’t do that,” State Health Officer Thomas Dobbs said, characterizing it as a “kind of crazy” act.

Things are so bad in Mississippi that the state’s health department issued an alert Friday warning about the increasing use of the drug. “The Mississippi Poison Control Center has received an increasing number of calls from individuals with potential ivermectin exposure taken to treat or prevent COVID-19 infection,” state officials said in a letter to healthcare providers across the state. At least 70 percent of the calls to the poison control line had to do with ingestion of ivermectin that was purchased at livestock supply centers. The vast majority of callers had mild symptoms, including rashes, nausea, vomiting, and abdominal pain. “Do NOT take drugs made for animals in any form,” the health department wrote on Facebook.

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The apparent increase in the use of ivermectin comes as Mississippi is suffering through “the worst part of the pandemic,” Dobbs said at a news briefing earlier this week. “We’re seeing higher and higher numbers of not just cases but hospitalizations, people in intensive care units, life support. And sadly, as we’ve seen, additional deaths are going to follow. Without a doubt we have surpassed our previous peaks by a substantial margin, and we expect to see that continue.” Only 46 percent of Mississippi’s population over 18 is fully vaccinated. Only Alabama has a lower rate of vaccination with 45 percent of its adult population fully vaccinated.

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