(ABC4) – Nationally, pharmacies have seen a 24-fold increase in the dispensing of ivermectin, a drug commonly used to treat livestock for worms. Amidst the increase in sales, poison control departments have seen an uptick in calls for individuals exposed to ivermectin. Utah is no exception.
While Mississippi, for example, has seen an increasing number of calls from individuals with exposure to ivermectin while trying to treat or prevent COVID-19, Utah has seen a small increase. Dr. Michael Moss, a toxicologist and medical director for the Utah Poison Control, tells ABC4 a ‘handful of people’ have called about exposure.
According to Dr. Moss, patients locally and nationally are purchasing ivermectin from retailers or using doses from veterinarians that are intended for large animals like horses and cattle. In some cases, these doses can be 10 times that of a dose appropriate for humans.
Taking a large dose of ivermectin is dangerous and can cause serious harm, the FDA reports. Some initial research is underway to determine if ivermectin can be used to treat or prevent COVID-19 but the FDA says that data has not been reviewed. The FDA warns taking ivermectin without a prescription or using a version not approved for humans by the FDA can be dangerous.
Ivermectin can be found in tablets approved “at very specific doses for parasitic worms” and some topical formulations for head lice and skin conditions in humans, according to the FDA. It is not an anti-viral, a drug to treat viruses.
According to the FDA, you can overdose on ivermectin, which can cause nausea, vomiting, diarrhea, low blood pressure, allergic reactions, dizziness, problems with balance, seizures, coma, and even death. This is partially due to the fact that animal drugs are often highly concentrated – because they are used in large animals – and those high doses can be toxic to humans. Additionally, there may be inactive ingredients in the drug that may not be evaluated for use in people.
One person who drank an injectable ivermectin formulation intended for use in cattle to try and prevent COVID-19 infection was hospitalized for nine days, according to the CDC. They presented to a hospital with confusion, drowsiness, visual hallucinations, tachypnea, and tremors. Another adult presented at the hospital after taking ivermectin tablets purchased on the Internet, taking five tablets for five days to treat COVID-19. This person was disoriented and struggled to answer questions and follow commands.
Taking ivermectin can cause nausea, vomiting, diarrhea, low blood pressure, allergic reactions, dizziness, problems with balance, seizures, coma, and even death. Additionally, the CDC says ivermectin has not been proven as a way to prevent or treat COVID-19.
In Utah, Dr. Moss says no patients have had to be hospitalized for ivermectin exposure but one was checked out by medical professionals. If you need treatment after testing positive for COVID-19, you should consult your doctor. Dr. Moss explains the best way to prevent getting COVID-19 is getting the vaccine.
If you have used ivermectin, Dr. Moss advises you to stop taking it and contact Utah Poison Control at 800-222-1222.