The Texas Department of State Health Services is issuing a health advisory over the improper use of ivermectin to treat or prevent COVID-19 after calls to the Texas Poison Center Network for people exposed to the drug increased 150%.
While some countries are conducting studies on ivermectin as a treatment for COVID-19, it is currently not an approved treatment in the U.S., and experts warn taking any medication in large quantities or for an unapproved use can be very dangerous.
Ivermectin is an antiparasitic drug and not an anti-viral medicine used to fight viruses. As a topical cream, ivermectin is approved by the FDA for the treatment of head lice and some skin conditions such as rosacea. It is also approved in pill form to treat parasitic worms (intestinal strongyloidiasis, onchocerciasis, and helminthiases) and scabies.
Some forms of ivermectin can be used to treat parasites in animals but are different than the forms for people and should never be given to humans.
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The drug has not been approved by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration for treating people infected with coronavirus, though they report on their website, in an article titled "Why You Should Not Use Ivermectin to Treat or Prevent COVID-19," that initial research is being conducted on the subject.
People apparently self-administering the drug for COVID-19 infections have led to a shocking increase in calls to the Texas Poison Center Network, the DSHS said Thursday.
From Jan. 1 to Aug. 24, the DSHS said the TPCN received a total of 159 ivermectin exposure calls, more than triple the 48 calls received in all of 2020. Sixty-four of the calls occurred this month and more than half of the calls for the year (87) were "potential ivermectin exposure taken in an attempt to treat or prevent COVID-19."
The DSHS said in most cases people were reporting mild symptoms, but that in 52 of the calls the patient was on the way to a health care facility or was referred to a health care facility due to more severe illness.
Taken incorrectly, or in large doses, ivermectin can cause serious harm.
People who have used ivermectin incorrectly may suffer adverse effects such as skin rash, pruritis (itch), nausea, diarrhea, stomach pain, facial or limb swelling. Neurological effects such as dizziness, confusion, and seizures have also been documented. Moreover, ivermectin can interact with other medications, such as blood thinners, leading to vomiting, low blood pressure, allergic reactions, dizziness, problems with balance, seizures, coma, and even death.
State health officials recommend the public take ivermectin only when prescribed by a doctor and only exactly as it's prescribed.
There are approved uses for ivermectin in both animals and people. Never use medications intended for animals on yourself. Ivermectin preparations for animals are very different from those approved for humans and can be highly toxic in humans.
If you are experiencing any adverse health effects or have questions or concerns about exposure to ivermectin, please contact your healthcare provider or the Texas Poison Center Network at 1-800-222-1222.