The COVID-19 pandemic has created heartache, confusion and a myriad of challenges. Unfortunately it has also inspired some really bad ideas, the latest of which entails people taking a drug most commonly used to deworm pets and livestock.
Ivermectin is primarily used by veterinarians to control parasites, and is approved for use in humans under certain circumstances — as prescribed by a doctor. It was explored as a possible COVID-19 treatment early in the pandemic, The Seattle Times reported, as health officials quickly sought ways to treat the virus. But it was found to have “very weak antiviral activity.”
The Los Angeles Times reported last month that a large patient study found ivermectin had “no effect whatsoever” on the coronavirus that causes COVID-19.
But due to the power of social media and minor celebrities like comic and former “Fear Factor” host Joe Rogan touting ivermectin as a COVID treatment, demand for the drug is soaring. And so is health professionals’ frustration.
The Seattle Times reported that so far this year the Washington Poison Center has seen calls about ivermectin triple. Most callers were asking about the drug’s safety, but some reported they’d been hospitalized or were experiencing mild to moderate symptoms of poisoning.
The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention reports that ivermectin dispensing from outpatient retail pharmacies in the United States showed an increase from an average of 3,600 prescriptions per week before the pandemic to a peak of 39,000 prescriptions in the week ending Jan. 8, 2021. Since early July, outpatient ivermectin dispensing has reached more than 88,000 prescriptions in the week ending Aug. 13. “This represents a 24-fold increase from the pre-pandemic baseline,” the CDC says.
This dangerous fad is another example of people viewing medical information through a political lens, eschewing experts’ reliance on sound science in favor of those who sound ideological dog whistles.
The fact is use of veterinary-grade ivermectin is dangerous. The version meant for animals is a much higher concentration than that prescribed for humans, The Seattle Times noted. Think of it this way: Does it really seem like a good idea for a 200-pound person to ingest a dose meant for a 1,200-pound animal?
“ ‘Humans should never consume veterinary ivermectin, even if they reduce the dosage,’ Washington Medical Commission spokesperson Stephanie Mason said. ‘It has a different chemical compound that can be extremely dangerous,’ ” the Seattle Times wrote.
Or as the Food and Drug Administration put it in a recent tweet: “You are not a horse. You are not a cow. Seriously, y’all. Stop it.”
Hackensack Meridian Health’s website says ivermectin’s side effects can include nausea, vomiting and diarrhea, confusion, hallucinations, seizures, coma and death.
By comparison, the CDC says, the COVID-19 vaccine’s most common side effects are soreness, redness and swelling at the injection site, tiredness, headache, muscle pain, chills, fever and nausea.
In addition, the CDC points out, “Millions of people have received COVID-19 vaccines, and no long-term side effects have been detected.”
So please listen to medical experts whose goal is to preserve health, rather than minor celebrities and angry politicos seeking attention and validation. Your life might depend on it.