Some sources have promoted the use of ivermectin as a treatment or preventative agent for COVID-19 infections, as it may decrease viral replication in vitro (in a lab dish and not in humans). The Illinois Poison Center (IPC) has received reports of at least two cases of patients misusing an ivermectin product (including those intended for horses) as a preventative measure against COVID-19.
What is ivermectin?
Ivermectin is an anti-parasitic drug used to treat many infections in animals and humans. Ivermectin is a safe and effective medication when used under the direction of a physician or veterinarian. In humans, ivermectin can be used for the treatment of lice, scabies and parasitic worms that can attack the eyes and intestines. In animals, including dogs, sheep, horses, pigs and cattle, ivermectin is commonly used for the treatment of heartworm, roundworms or mites.
Ivermectin is available as a tablet or a cream for humans. For animals, ivermectin is available as a tablet, topical solution and injection. A usual oral adult human dose is 12-15 mg, but some animal products may contain up to 500 mg, or over 30 times times that of a normal human dose. These animal formulations are available online or in farm supply stores without a prescription. Because of this, the potential for ivermectin misuse and overdose is high.
What are side effects of ivermectin?
When used under the supervision of a doctor, most patients don’t have problems after taking ivermectin. Common side effects include flu-like symptoms, rash and itching. However, misuse or overdose of ivermectin can be deadly. In overdoses, ivermectin can cause confusion, seizures, respiratory failure, coma or death.
What do health officials say about ivermectin use for COVID-19?
Several health agencies have issued statements about the use of ivermectin for COVID-19. When asked if ivermectin should be used to prevent or treat COVID-19, the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) states, “No. While there are approved uses for ivermectin in people and animals, it is not approved for the prevention or treatment of COVID-19.” The FDA also states, “Never use medications intended for animals on yourself. Ivermectin preparations for animals are very different from those approved for humans.”
The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) and the National Institutes of Health (NIH) state, “There are insufficient data for the COVID-19 Treatment Guidelines Panel to recommend either for or against the use of ivermectin for the treatment of COVID-19.” Additionally, the manufacturer of ivermectin, Merck, states there is “no meaningful evidence for clinical activity or clinical efficacy in patients with COVID-19 disease.” The World Health Organization (WHO) has issued similar statements over the last year.
What should you do if you ingest ivermectin without a prescription?
Patients are advised to only use ivermectin if prescribed by a physician. Animal products should not be used for treating humans. If you take ivermectin without a prescription or ingest an animal ivermectin product, call IPC at 800-222-1222. All calls are free and confidential.
COVID-19 Prevention Resources
Learn more about preventing the spread of COVID-19 infection:
So…is ivermectin for COVID-19? Our answer to the questions is a resounding “No.”