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Doctors warn against use of ‘horse dewormer’ to treat COVID-19

According to Wisconsin Poison Control, there have already been 17 cases of Ivermectin poisoning this year in the state.
Published: Sep. 7, 2021 at 5:17 PM CDT|Updated: Sep. 7, 2021 at 5:23 PM CDT
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GREEN BAY, Wis. (WBAY) - A drug meant for use as an animal dewormer is being used by some people to treat COVID-19.

According to Wisconsin Poison Control, there have already been 17 cases of Ivermectin poisoning this year in the state.

Trying to treat novel viruses with pre-existing medications is nothing new said Dr. Christopher Painter, an emergency medicine physician at BayCare Clinic.

“When there’s already an existing medicine available, it can be a feeling to try to use that for a new illness,” said Dr. Painter.

In fact, research has led to COVID-19 treatment guidelines for hospitalized patients, which includes Remdesivir. The drug was studied early in the pandemic to help patients in the hospital with COVID-19.

Hydroxychloroquine was also looked at as a possible treatment but was decided to be ineffective and ‘unlikely to kill or inhibit the virus that causes Covid-19, according to the FDA.

The National Institutes of Health (NIH) conducted clinical trials and observational studies to evaluate the use of Ivermectin to prevent and treat covid-19 in humans but found insufficient evidence.

“Worldwide it’s very frequently used for deworming, but we even use it for other illnesses like scabies and there are topical formulations for skin conditions like rosacea,” said Dr. Painter. “The reason we’re not using it for coronavirus is that the existing evidence just doesn’t support it.”

However, that isn’t stopping some people from seeking out the drug.

“Because many doctors are not prescribing this medicine for covid people are trying to find it in more novel ways,” said Dr. Painter.

People are buying over-the-counter Ivermectin, which is packaged to treat parasites in large animals like horses and cattle.

“The animal preparations can be very dangerous,” said Dr. Painter. “The dosing for a 1,200-pound animal is dramatically different than it would be for a human being. Even when used correctly there can be some side effects and those are much more likely to occur when users add significantly increased doses.”

Dr. Painter said along with no evidence to suggest Ivermectin helps with covid, he said the wrong dosage can be disastrous and lead to many ill side effects.

“Most common things you might see would be rashes, nausea, vomiting, diarrhea, sometimes some swelling or even racing heart. Can even be liver problems, because when studied for humans, it’s used many times at a lower dose than it would be for livestock.”

Wisconsin’s Poison Control said there have been 17 cases of Ivermectin poisoning this year in Wisconsin. Nationwide, the CDC said ‘poison control centers have seen a three-fold increase in the number of calls for human exposures to Ivermectin. In July 2021, ivermectin calls have continued to sharply increase, to a five-fold increase from baseline. These reports are also associated with increased frequency of adverse effects and emergency department/hospital visits.”

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