Recently, the Utah Department of Health became aware of a patient who ingested large doses of ivermectin in an attempt to treat symptoms of COVID-19.
The patient suffered serious health effects and was taken to a Utah hospital, according to a statement from the state’s departments of Health and Agriculture.
Ivermectin is not a COVID-19 drug; there is no data to suggest this drug has any impact on COVID-19 infection, reads the statement. The continued promotion of the drug has led to an increase in people buying veterinary ivermectin and being hospitalized due to side effects of ingesting the drug. The CDC and the American Association of Poison Control Centers have seen a recent increase in calls related to severe side effects due to ivermectin.
“I strongly encourage clinical providers to consider the harm they may cause if they provide ivermectin to patients with COVID-19 infection. While there is no data showing it helps with COVID-19 there is very strong data showing it can do harm. I also encourage pharmacists to question any prescriptions for high-dose ivermectin that is inappropriate for their clients,” said Dr. Leisha Nolen, state epidemiologist at the UDOH.
The Utah Poison Control Center has seen a 4.5 times higher rate of ivermectin exposures in 2021 compared with 2020. “Ivermectin exposures related to the treatment or prevention of COVID-19 account for 56% of exposures reported to us for this drug in 2021. Fifty percent of people who called us after using ivermectin as a way to treat or prevent COVID-19 have received medical help because of the exposure,” said Amberly Johnson, director of the Utah Poison Control Center.
People who take the veterinary drug are asked to call the Utah Poison Control Center if they are worried about side effects. Poison specialists are available 24/7 at 1-800-222-1222. For emergencies, call 911.
Veterinary ivermectin is used to treat parasites in horses and other animals and is not safe for human use. Human ivermectin treatments have much lower doses than ivermectin used in large animals and are not approved by the FDA to treat or prevent SARS-CoV-2 viral infection. To date, there is no evidence that ivermectin can treat or prevent COVID-19. The FDA strongly discourages self-treatment of COVID-19 with ivermectin because it can result in serious injury and hospitalization.
“The recent uptick in reports of ivermectin misuse are concerning. The Utah Department of Agriculture and Food does not endorse the misuse of ivermectin to treat COVID-19 and encourages individuals to consult with a qualified healthcare provider before undergoing any course of treatment,” said Utah State Veterinarian Dr. Dean Taylor.
In addition to the dangers of becoming seriously ill, the American Veterinary Medical Association warns this can lead to local shortages of veterinary-use approved ivermectin products critical for the health of livestock. The AVMA has developed warning signs for veterinarians and retailers at www.fda.gov/media/151853/download.
Those who have questions about COVID-19 are asked to talk to a healthcare provider. The most effective way to limit the spread of COVID-19 is to get vaccinated.