Everyone is anxious to find medications that work for the treatment of COVID-19. In the last several weeks, there have been studies to show possible benefits of certain medications already on the market for other diseases. Some of these may even be available online or at the store; however, it is important to follow the direction of a physician before “jumping on the bandwagon” of the various treatments in the news.
One recent study showed a possible benefit for ivermectin. However, this study was NOT done in humans, it was conducted in the lab using cell culture (like a petri dish). Researchers concluded that the drug reduced replication of the virus (SARS-CoV-2) in the lab tests performed. Although it is possible this medicine may eventually be tried in humans for the current coronavirus infection, do not try to self-treat COVID-19 with ivermectin.
WHAT IS IVERMECTIN USED FOR CURRENTLY?
Ivermectin is an anti-parasite medication. It has been used for years for infections such as lice, scabies, and parasitic worms. Ivermectin is available both as a tablet and a topical lotion. The dose and route (taken by mouth or applied to the skin) depends on the reason for treatment. You might already have it in your home as a chewable tablet for dogs to prevent heartworm infection, but do not try to treat yourself with this medicine.
WHAT ARE THE SIDE EFFECTS OF IVERMECTIN?
Ivermectin is well-tolerated, meaning it does not have many side effects with recommended use. Some of the common side effects include itching or rash, muscle aches, increased heart rate, headache, fever, and upset stomach.
WHAT HAPPENS IN AN IVERMECTIN OVERDOSE OR POISONING?
The Missouri Poison Center has helped with many accidental and intentional ivermectin poisonings over the years. Often, our ivermectin calls are about a mistake with the pet’s medicine or an error with applying the topical lotion for lice. Symptoms, if any, are usually similar to the side effects above. Accidental small dosing mishaps rarely result in problems. There have been reports of intentional ivermectin overdoses which can cause serious symptoms such as seizures, coma, lung and heart problems.
WHAT DOES THE MISSOURI POISON CENTER RECOMMEND?
While ivermectin has demonstrated benefits for the conditions noted above, the benefit for treatment of COVID-19 has NOT been definitively established. It is critical that any use of this medication is coordinated with a treating physician with full understanding of the potential risks and benefits. Even though ivermectin is available in various forms, do NOT attempt to self-treat COVID-19 with this medication. Further studies need to be done to determine if it works in humans for COVID-19 and the appropriate dose that should be given.
Want to learn more about other newsworthy medicines for COVID-19? The drugs chloroquine and hydroxychloroquine have also been in the press recently. Click here to read more about these medications.
If you have questions about ivermectin or any other medication, please contact the poison center at 1-800-222-1222 for advice. Our trained pharmacists, nurses, and medical toxicologist are standing by to help.