Poison control centers are seeing a dramatic surge in calls from people who are self-medicating with ivermectin, an anti-parasite drug for animals that some falsely claim treats COVID-19.
According to the National Poison Data System (NPDS), which collects information from the nation’s 55 poison control centers, there was a 245% jump in reported exposure cases from July to August — from 133 to 459.
Meanwhile, emergency rooms across the country are treating more patients who have taken the drug, after being persuaded by false and misleading information spread on the internet, by talk show hosts and by political leaders. Most patients are overdosing on a version of the drug that is formulated to treat parasites in cows and horses.
The troubling trend has been on the rise since the start of 2021 — despite warnings from state health officials and the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention against taking ivermectin. The NPDS says 1,143 ivermectin exposure cases were reported between Jan. 1 and Aug. 31. That marks an increase of 163% over the same period last year.
Ivermectin was discovered in 1975 and is approved for use in humans to treat infections caused by some parasitic worms, head lice and skin conditions such as rosacea. When taken in appropriate, prescribed doses, it can be highly effective and is included in the World Health Organization’s list of essential medicines.
But after some clinical trials at the start of the coronavirus pandemic, the Food and Drug Administration says the “currently available data do not show ivermectin is effective against COVID-19.”