Nevada poison calls increase as people ingest horse medicine unapproved for COVID-19 treatment

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LAS VEGAS (KLAS) – Nevada Poison Control has reported increasing calls concerning people who say they were exposed to ivermectin, even as doctors and government agencies warn that its usage is not approved to treat COVID-19.

Ivermectin is an anti-parasite medicine used for both treatment and prevention in animals. However, there is no evidence that it is effective against COVID-19, a virus, and not a parasite.

“COVID-19. We’ve been living with it for what sometimes seems like forever,” an article on the FDA’s website reads. “Given the number of deaths that have occurred from the disease, it’s perhaps not surprising that some consumers are looking at unconventional treatments, not approved or authorized by the Food and Drug Administration.”

The FDA has also reported several hospitalizations from people who tried to self-medicate with dosages meant for large animals.

“For one thing, animal drugs are often highly concentrated because they are used for large animals like horses and cows, which can weigh a lot more than we do — a ton or more,” the article states. “Such high doses can be highly toxic in humans.”

In addition to not being authorized for COVID-19 treatment, there is no evidence ivermectin is even effective in treating COVID-19.

“It’s just the stupidest thing I’ve ever heard,” horse owner Leonard Sanchez of Las Vegas said. “It even says on there, ‘If swallowed, you need to see a doctor.’ It’s the same way with bleach. Why would you swallow bleach?”

Even still, people are buying the drug meant for large animals, often over 1,000 pounds. Sanchez’s horse Melanie, for instance, currently weighs 1,061 pounds, said A.J. Manship, her veterinarian.

“I don’t know if I was surprised,” Manship, who works at Desert Pines Equine Medical & Surgical Center, said of people taking ivermectin in the hopes of treating COVID-19. “Disappointed, I think — and I little worried more than anything.”

Ivermectin for horses can come in tablets or a paste. Manship said a normal dosage for a horse is not even a full syringe. But some people are eating the animal medication without regard to the amount they are ingesting.

Some forms of ivermectin are approved for treating parasites in humans, the FDA reported, but the kinds available online — for animals — are not approved. As a result, a doctor would prescribe the drug for a parasite infection in a human, and the medication would not be in the form given to horses, the FDA warns.

“It’s important to note that these products are different from the ones for people, and safe when used as prescribed for animals, only,” the FDA wrote.

“Bottom line, it’s not approved for what people are using it for,” Manship said.

“These medicines have side effects,” Shireen Banerji, the director of the Nevada Poison Center, said. “They might interact with your current medications, so there’s definitely risk in trying to self-treat with things that haven’t been prescribed for you.”

Before the pandemic, the poison center received no calls for ivermectin exposure, she said. As of Aug. 23, the center received four calls. That does not include people who may have called their doctor, 911, or gone directly to the hospital.

“The fact that it was zero the year before, it’s significant,” she said. “If that trend continues, I’m worried about more of the general public doing the same thing, buying something that has not been prescribed for them and then running into trouble.”

“I know COVID is scary, lockdowns are scary, but this isn’t the way to get past that,” Manship said.

Nevada Poison Control can be contacted at 800-222-1222. In the event of a medical emergency, call 911.

Severe dangers of ivermectin include neurologic disorders, seizures, coma and death.

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The World Health Organization first posted about ivermectin and coronavirus in March.

“We recommend not to use ivermectin in patients with COVID-19 except in the context of a clinical trial,” its latest guidance read as of Friday.

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