PORTLAND, Ore. (KOIN) — As COVID cases and hospitalizations surge, so are reports regarding the misuse of Ivermectin — a drug commonly used to treat worms in cows and horses.

Following an increase in hospitalizations and calls to poison control centers, this week both the CDC and FDA issued health alerts warning against off-label use of the anti-parasitic drug Ivermectin to treat and prevent COVID-19.

While Ivermectin tablets are approved by the FDA to treat people with intestinal conditions caused by parasitic worms, reports of individuals orally ingesting topical Ivermectin products and consuming veterinary forms of the drug are increasing. And as vaccine rates remain stagnant, horse worming medications are flying off the shelves.

Dr. Scott Lindquist, Acting State Health Officer with the Washington Department of Health told KOIN 6 News Ivermectin products for animals are completely different from those approved for human consumption.

“You should not be taking veterinary medicine. That is meant for an animal not for a human,” stated Dr. Lindquist. “Taking a pill meant for a horse for a 130-pound person creates extreme side effects.”

Dr. Lindquist argues the evidence does not support Ivermectin’s sudden rise in popularity. “There’s insufficient data to support either preventing or treating COVID-19. Weighing that with the side effects from Ivermectin, the recommendation is that it’s not approved for COVID-19.”

According to data presented in the most recent CDC report, Ivermectin prescriptions within the US are skyrocketing with 88,000 prescriptions for the drug made out in the week ending August 13.

Nationally, prescriptions for Ivermectin are up 24 times compared to the pre-pandemic average, while calls to poison control centers regarding the drug are up five times.

Estimated number of outpatient Ivermectin prescriptions dispensed from retail pharmacies
United States, March 16, 2019–August 13, 2021*
*Data from the IQVIA National Prescription Audit Weekly (NPA Weekly) database.

For the doctors continuing to prescribe Ivermectin despite FDA and CDC warnings, Dr. Lindquist had a clear message.

“Our number one thing is to ‘do no harm,’ and this is causing harm,” Dr. Lindquist continued. “A very basic tenant of being a healthcare provider is being broken by these principles.”

Reiterating that Ivermectin is not authorized for the treatment of COVID, Dr. Lindquist warned: “Prescribing medication that is not authorized by the FDA is very risky. If there is a bad outcome, that person is liable.”

In August alone, poison control centers in Oregon and Washington each treated nine people who took Ivermectin.

Side effects associated with Ivermectin overdose include vomiting, seizures, nervous system depression, coma, and death.  

According to the CDC and FDA, the best way to prevent COVID-19 is by wearing a mask, social distancing and getting an approved coronavirus vaccine.