L.A. County warns against using livestock dewormer ivermectin to treat COVID

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A health worker shows a bottle of ivermectin in Cali, Colombia, on July 21, 2020. (LUIS ROBAYO/AFP via Getty Images)

A health worker shows a bottle of ivermectin in Cali, Colombia, on July 21, 2020. (LUIS ROBAYO/AFP via Getty Images)

Los Angeles County officials on Monday urged residents not to use veterinary formulations of ivermectin to treat COVID-19, warning that the anti-parasite drug could lead to unintended negative health consequences.

“Per Los Angeles County Department of Public Health, Ivermectin is NOT a proven way to prevent or treat COVID-19,” the county said in a Facebook post. “Veterinary formulations intended for deworming in large animals such as horses, sheep, and cattle can be highly concentrated and result in overdoses when used by humans.” 

The county encouraged anyone who experiences symptoms after ingesting ivermectin, or a product that contains it, to contact the poison control hotline by dialing 800-222-1222.

Side effects can include gastrointestinal effects, headache, blurred vision, dizziness, fast heart rate and low blood pressure.

But the dewormer drug can also lead to more severe symptoms, such as tremors, seizure, hallucinations, confusion, coma, loss of coordination and balance, and decreased alertness.

L.A. County’s warning follows the U.S. Food and Drug Administration’s recommendation not to use ivermectin to prevent or treat COVID-19.

“You are not a horse. You are not a cow. Seriously, y’all. Stop it,” the FDA tweeted earlier this month.

Ivermectin has not been approved or authorized for treating the coronavirus, the FDA’s website says. Some initial research is being conducted, but the agency has not yet reviewed the data.

In tablet form, ivermectin is approved for use against some parasitic worms, while topical formulations can treat head lice and some skin conditions, such as rosacea.

And there is a difference between ivermectin products used for people and animals, according to the FDA.

Even though there’s no evidence ivermectin has been proven a safe or effective treatment against COVID-19, it’s been recommended widely on internet forums frequented by vaccine skeptics and coronavirus deniers.

Pharmacy prescriptions for ivermectin have been booming this summer, reaching more than 88,000 prescriptions more than two weeks ago – 24 times the normal weekly number, the Associated Press reports. Calls to poison control centers about ivermectin overdoses have also multiplied, to five times higher than normal, U.S. health officials say.

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention last week also sent an alert about the trend to doctors, saying there is not good evidence that ivermectin is effective at preventing or treating COVID-19.

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