The Food and Drug Administration (FDA) reiterated a warning against the use of ivermectin as a COVID-19 treatment amid growing reports of individuals taking the drug often used to treat parasitic worms in animals.
Mississippi state health officials recently issued an alert over increased calls from people potentially exposed to ivermectin being taken to prevent or treat COVID-19 infection. Although the drug is approved by the FDA for certain uses in animals and humans, more than 70% of recent calls have been for formulations for livestock, officials said.
The FDA has previously raised concerns about self-medication with ivermectin intended for animals, noting that some people might mistakenly believe that the drug can replace ivermectin intended for humans.
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“Animal drugs are often very concentrated because they are used for large animals like horses and cows, which can weigh a lot more than us, a ton or more,” one agency’s web page read. “Such high doses can be highly toxic in humans.”
Ivermectin toxicity can lead to symptoms such as “rash, nausea, vomiting, abdominal pain, neurological disorders, and potentially serious hepatitis requiring hospitalization,” Mississippi health officials noted. An overdose of ivermectin can lead to seizures, coma and even death, the FDA warns.
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As of August 20, Mississippi health officials had not reported any hospitalizations related to ivermectin toxicity, and 85% of recent callers had mild symptoms, with one person being asked to seek further assessment due to the amount of medication ingested.
Consumers with a prescription for ivermectin for approved use should take the drug exactly as prescribed, the FDA said. Some approved uses include the treatment of lice, skin problems like rosacea, and conditions caused by parasitic worms.