COVID-19 patients using the anti-parasitic drug ivermectin in an attempt to cure their infection could be prone to serious illness, according to the CDC.
The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention states that ivermectin overdoses may cause gastrointestinal symptoms such as nausea, vomiting, and diarrhea, or can create hypotension and neurologic problems such as decreased consciousness, confusion, hallucinations, seizures and coma.
Some overdoses may lead to death, health officials said in a report that was released last week as the CDC has seen a rapid increase in ivermectin prescriptions.
From the pre-pandemic baseline before March 2020 to Aug. 13, prescriptions have increased from an average of 3,600 per week to more than 88,000, a 24-fold increase, the CDC states.
The U.S. Food and Drug Administration has approved ivermectin for use by people and animals for some parasitic worms, head lice and skin conditions, but not for treating COVID-19.
The product is typically used for large animals such as horses and cattle weighing at least 1,000 pounds, meaning the highly concentrated drug could cause overdoses when consumed by humans. The drug for veterinary use can be sold over the counter.
“You are not a horse. You are not a cow. Seriously, y’all. Stop it,” the FDA recently tweeted.
You are not a horse. You are not a cow. Seriously, y'all. Stop it. https://t.co/TWb75xYEY4— U.S. FDA (@US_FDA) August 21, 2021
The CDC said that calls to poison control centers across the U.S. relating the ivermectin increased by five-fold from before the pandemic to July 2021.
In at least two severe cases of adverse effects to ivermectin, the CDC states, two patients who took the drug were hospitalized.
One person drank an injectable ivermectin drug intended for cattle to try to prevent a COVID-19 infection.
”This patient presented to a hospital with confusion, drowsiness, visual hallucinations, tachypnea, and tremors,” the CDC said, adding that they had to stay nine days in the hospital before they recovered.
Another patient who took ivermectin tablets that they purchased on the internet “was disoriented and had difficulty answering questions and following commands,” the CDC states. They had taken five tablets a day for five days to treat COVID-19, and the tablets were of unknown strength.
That person recovered after they stopped ingesting ivermectin.
So far this year, it has received 260 calls relating to the drug. Varnet said the majority of calls relate to someone taking ivermectin to prevent or cure COVID-19.