HIDALGO COUNTY, Texas (ValleyCentral) — The anti-parasitic drug Ivermectin is making headlines because people are using it as an attempt to treat COVID-19.
The Texas poison control network received more calls last month related to ivermectin exposure than they did for all of 2020.
The drug is safe to use in the right circumstances but doctors have raised alarms that people are using the drug for something it’s not supposed to do, and they’re blaming internet misinformation.
“It’s a daily battle, we’re battling misinformation and we’re battling COVID,” said Dr. Federico Vallejo, a critical care doctor at DHR Health.
Vallejo told ValleyCentral that he has been battling with misinformation around Ivermectin for months.
Vallejo said that it is used to treat parasites and intestinal worms — as well as a topical spread to treat headlice. “And it is a great medication for that treatment.”
Ivermectin can be used by people but it requires a prescription, therefore anyone looking to get Ivermectin must talk to a doctor, but a lot of them won’t prescribe the drug to treat COVID-19 because it is not FDA approved for that use.
Vallejo said there isn’t a study that shows Ivermectin works to treat COVID-19, but there is “a randomized, controlled, double-blind study – the way we’re supposed to do studies for medications – that show no benefit for ivermectin.”
A version that is formulated to treat parasites in large farm animals can be found in farm supply stores and is being used by people to try and treat COVID-19. Dr. Ivan Melendez, the Hidalgo County health authority, said this is where people are making themselves sick.
“The preparation between veterinarian and human doses has to do with purity, dosing, preparations. So, even though it’s the same formula, it’s packaged and concentrated differently,” Melendez said.
The FDA and CDC both say not to take Ivermectin to treat COVID-19, but some people still have. Texas DSHS released a statement saying that more people have called the state’s poison control number because of Ivermectin last month, 64, than did for the entirety of 2020, 48.
“Merck, the pharmaceutical [company], the one that benefits by selling it for COVID, they’re saying don’t use it,” Vallejo said.
Melendez and Vallejo both recommend people get COVID-19 vaccines instead of taking Ivermectin.