Palmetto Poison Control, SCDHEC & doctors urge you not to use Ivermectin to treat or prevent COVID-19

Palmetto Poison Control, SCDHEC & doctors urge you not to use Ivermectin to treat or prevent COVID-19
Published: Aug. 27, 2021 at 3:16 PM EDT|Updated: Aug. 27, 2021 at 5:45 PM EDT
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COLUMBIA, S.C. (WIS) - You are not a horse and you are not a cow. Those seem like obvious statements, right?

The Food and Drug Administration posted this funny caption this week: “You are not a horse, you are not a cow. Seriously y’all. Stop it.” While it might be a funny caption it comes with a very serious warning from the Food and Drug Administration.

“The FDA has received multiple reports of patients who have required medical support and been hospitalized after self-medicating with ivermectin intended for horses,” the agency said.

So, why are people using Ivermectin? Simply: someone online said it was a treatment for COVID-19 … and the internet ran with it. But it does come with some scientific background. It is currently being studied and has been a drug scientists have been looking at, along with many others, in a quest to find treatments for a virus that continues to wreak havoc on the United States.

“What we found over time with clinical studies is to get to the doses that you would need based on the lab studies to show the same kind of efficacy was just astronomically impossible,” said Prisma Health Infectious Disease Specialist Dr. Edwin Hayes. “The toxicity of the medication far outpaces any kind of hypothetical benefit to treating the virus.”

The toxicity Dr. Hayes is referring to is because of dosage. The ivermectin people are getting over-the-counter at tractor supply stores nationwide is intended for horses, NOT for humans.

“We usually give an average-size horse a full tube,” said Dr. Jeff Witwer, as he showed WIS the dosage tube normally give to a horse.

Dr. Witwer is an Equine Vet with South Carolina Veterinary Associates in Camden. He told us that the type of Ivermectin paste they use for horses treats heartworm disease and certain parasites. Vets usually dose the horses up roughly six times a year. The problem is – the dose is way too high for humans. But humans are trying it out anyway, because they can get their hands on it over the counter at tractor supply and feed stores.

Ivermectin is an FDA approved drug treatment for parasites in humans, but it is not an anti-viral treatment and it is certainly not an FDA approved treatment for COVID-19.

“Ivermectin has been around for a long time. It is actually used in people,” said Palmetto Poison Center Managing Director, Dr. Jill Michels. “We don’t use it too often here in the US because it’s used for intestinal parasites like worms.”

But, taking the veterinary grade dosage is a potentially poisonous mistake.

“The concern is people are buying this medication that’s not for human use and guessing the correct dose. These products are highly concentrated for horses. An incorrect estimate of how much you should take, may result in an overdose,” said Dr. Michels.

The side effects of the drug are potentially lethal, according to Dr. Hayes.

“Larger doses… these poisoning doses that people are getting from taking veterinary medication from an animal that is much larger than they are can lead to complete drops in their blood pressure, nausea, vomiting, diarrhea, diffuse rash and hives and even seizures coma and death,” said Dr. Hayes.

In Alabama alone, the number of calls to poison control due to people taking un-prescribed ivermectin doubled from the prior year. In Mississippi – 70% of the recent calls have been because of people taking ivermectin they bought from livestock supply centers.

It underscores the message from health officials to steer clear of unfounded treatment claims online.

“Thinking that ivermectin will help you or thinking that there is some medicine you can buy over the shelf that’s going to stop this infection from happening to you or prevent it from getting worse is a false sense of security and it is not something that is comparable to the protection you get from vaccination,” said. Dr. Hayes.

According to SCDHEC, it’s also important to remember that many inactive ingredients found in animal products aren’t evaluated for use in people. In some cases, we don’t know how those inactive ingredients will affect how ivermectin is absorbed in the human body.

The Palmetto Poison Center reports so far they’ve only received a couple of calls about Ivermectin overdosing – but Dr. Michels reminds everyone to listen to your doctor or pharmacist when it comes to medical advice, rather than relying on social media.

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