Share on PinterestAn anti-parasitic drug should not be used for COVID-19 treatment warns experts. LUIS ROBAYO/AFP via Getty ImagesThe FDA warned that using ivermectin intended for veterinary use is dangerous and can result in severe consequences for health.Many studies have been conducted to find whether ivermectin can treat COVID-19, but experts say that so far, none offers conclusive evidence.Ivermectin has been used in the past as a treatment for parasitic infections in humans.
Since the onset of the COVID-19 pandemic, many people have searched for a shortcut to cure the disease, which has few proven treatments.
Now the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) has issued a warning against using an antiparasite drug called ivermectin as a treatment for COVID-19.
“FDA is concerned about the health of consumers who may self-medicate by taking Ivermectin products intended for animals, thinking they can be a substitute for Ivermectin intended for humans,” the FDA said in a statement. “These animal drugs can cause serious harm in people.”
The FDA emphasized that people shouldn’t take any form of ivermectin unless it’s been prescribed to them by a licensed healthcare provider and obtained through a legitimate source.
Ivermectin was originally discovered in the 1970s and first used as a veterinary drug to kill internal and external parasites in pets and livestock. It’s currently also used to treat parasite infections in people.
While considered safe for humans when used as prescribed, taking a dose intended for pets or livestock could cause severe health issues.
According to the Missouri Poison Center, there have been reports of intentional ivermectin overdoses, which can cause serious symptoms that include:
seizurescomalung and heart problems
According to the FDA, increased interest in ivermectin to treat or prevent COVID-19 infection began with the announcement of a research article. The article described the effect of ivermectin on SARS-CoV-2 in a laboratory setting. It’s important to note that ivermectin wasn’t given to people or animals in this study.
The National Institutes of Health (NIH) online database of clinical trials shows 38 studies around the world that include ivermectin as a possible treatment for COVID-19.
However, according to the database, many of them are still recruiting participants and only a few are located in the United States.
The FDA emphasized that while ivermectin is being investigated in a laboratory setting, further research with conclusive data is needed before it’s approved for treating COVID-19.
Critically, the FDA hasn’t issued an Emergency Use Authorization (EUA) for ivermectin, which allows a drug still in testing to be used outside a clinical trial.
Mangala Narasimhan, DO, director of Critical Care Services at Northwell Health in New York, told Healthline that several randomized trials and retrospective cohort studies of ivermectin use in patients with COVID-19 have been published or made available ahead of peer review. However, evidence for it is mixed.
“Some clinical studies showed no benefits or worsening of disease after ivermectin use,” she said.
She pointed out that some studies did report improvements in recuperation time reduced inflammatory marker levels or lower mortality rates in patients who received ivermectin compared to other drugs or placebos.
“However, most of these studies had incomplete information and significant methodological limitations,” she explained.
According to Narasimhan, these limitations included small sample size, varying doses of ivermectin, and patients receiving other medications with treatment.
Although self-administering a drug dose intended for animals is never safe, ivermectin has helped many people when used properly as prescribed by healthcare providers.
The World Health Organization (WHO) said that drug manufacturer Merck (patent holder of ivermectin) recognized the drug’s potential for human use in the 1980s. Merck began a drug donation program for river blindness (caused by a parasite) that became the global model for philanthropic partnerships between drug companies and countries unable to afford a drug.
The WHO added that ivermectin has “valuable public health applications” for controlling a disease caused by roundworms called strongyloidiasis and scabies (caused by mites).
Paul E. Marik, MD, professor of internal medicine in the Division of Pulmonary and Critical Care Medicine at Eastern Virginia Medical School, said that ivermectin is on the WHO list of essential medications. He added it’s one of the safest ones available with “3.7 billion doses dispensed over the last 25 years, with minimal side effects.”
The FDA warned that using ivermectin intended for veterinary use is dangerous and can result in severe consequences for health.
Many studies have been conducted to find whether ivermectin can treat COVID-19, but experts say that so far, none offers conclusive evidence.
Experts also say that when used under medical supervision, ivermectin is safe and effective for the conditions it’s meant to treat and might have a role to play against the novel coronavirus.