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Missouri poison control warns people against misusing ivermectin to prevent or treat COVID-19

St. Louis area medical experts blast those touting the dewormer as a COVID-19 treatment

ST. LOUIS — The FDA reminded people that they aren’t horses following new talks about a drug called Ivermectin. A medication typically used to deworm livestock is now being misused to treat or prevent COVID-19 against medical advice.

The I-Team didn’t look too far to find advocates of the drug – the Mayor of Lake Ozark posted on Facebook that he wanted to bring the drug to a hospital to help a friend suffering from Covid-19. The mayor hasn’t responded to our request for an interview and has since deleted the post.

“I’ve been seeing it in my practice. People have been coming in or calling in and saying ‘Hey, I’ve heard about this ivermectin thing, should I take it?’” said Dr. JoAnn Jose at SLUCare.

Her short answer – no.

“It’s not an anti-viral drug by any stretch of the imagination,” she said.

It’s true that ivermectin, when prescribed by a doctor, can treat some human parasitic infections as well as head lice and other skin conditions. The FDA says it is not effective against COVID-19. Tests of the drug in humans were not successful in treatment or prevention.

“What’s troubling is a lot of people are accessing their ivermectin in a veterinary formulation. That’s intended for animals,” Jose said.

Human ivermectin and animal ivermectin have different inactive ingredients. Which means it’s not safe to swap and then take.

“They’re not studied for use in human populations,” she said. “Not only might you get a very high dose of ivermectin and get very sick from that but you also might have an allergy or allergic reaction.”

It’s why poison control experts are also issuing reminders about the dangers of taking any drug not prescribed directly to the user.

“It needs to be prescribed by a physician because of course, we do not want to put medications in our body that we do not need,” said Julie Weber, Director of the Missouri Poison Center.

She said last year there were just two cases of patients who misused ivermectin. This year, it’s up to 22.

“Veterinary products really are not safe for human consumption and I know with times like these, we’re getting very desperate,” Weber said.

Symptoms of poisoning include skin rash, nausea, vomiting, diarrhea and even liver injury. All of which are avoidable symptoms, according to doctors.

“I understand this is a terrifying time, it’s scary for everyone, it’s inconvenient for everyone,” Jose said. “I understand but let’s be sensible about what we’re deciding to do."

Dr. Jose said she often talks her patients through questions about prevention and treatment options for COVID-19. The FDA gave approval full approval of the Pfizer and BioNTech vaccine on Monday. Other vaccines have been authorized for emergency use for the last several months.

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