Prescriptions for ivermectin are on the rise, with many people arriving at pharmacies refusing to say what their prescription is for, health officials say.
The pest control drug grabbed headlines this year after trials suggested it might be effective as a COVID treatment.
But while the drug has been approved for use in humans to treat conditions such as certain parasitic infections with worms and lice, ivermectin has not been approved for use as a COVID treatment.
As such, the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) and the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) in the United States have both warned against its use or misuse.
It hasn’t stopped people from trying. Prescription data shows ivermectin distribution reached 88,000 prescriptions in the week ending August 13, 24 times more than before the pandemic.
In Australia, too, pharmacists are increasingly reporting cases of clients presenting with prescriptions for ivermectin. When asked what they were going to use the prescription for, some customers were “unwilling or unable” to respond, a spokesperson for the Pharmaceutical Society of Australia said. The Guardian newspaper this week.
The document also reported that Australia’s Therapeutic Goods Administration observed a more than ten-fold increase in detections of ivermectin imports into the country.
The increase has raised concerns among some healthcare professionals, in part due to the fact that ivermectin is still not approved as a COVID treatment and in part due to incidents in which people are using it. overdose and get sick.
Australian Chief Medical Officer Professor Paul Kelly said The Guardian that people should “absolutely and categorically” not take unproven drugs as COVID treatments after a patient was hospitalized in Sydney with vomiting and diarrhea after an ivermectin overdose.
In the United States, the CDC issued a health notice on August 26, noting that retail pharmacies were increasingly dispensing ivermectin during the COVID pandemic.
The health agency noted that the adverse health effects associated with ivermectin abuse and overdoses were also on the rise, with poison control centers reporting a three-fold increase in calls for “human exposure to ivermectin. In January of this year compared to before the pandemic.
Fetal damage has also been observed in animal studies.
Part of the problem is that some formulations of ivermectin are for veterinary use only and are intended for use in large animals such as horses or cattle. These products can be very concentrated, causing overdoses and toxic effects in humans.
Overdose can lead to gastric symptoms like vomiting and diarrhea, but also confusion, hallucinations, seizures, coma and even death, according to the CDC.
The FDA underscored its concerns in a tweet in August, writing, “You are not a horse. You are not a cow. Seriously, all of you. Stop it.”
Despite this, ivermectin has gained the support of some like the Front Line COVID-19 Critical Care Alliance, which strongly calls for its use.
Notable study suggesting ivermectin may be useful as a COVID treatment from an April 2020 lab trial at Monash University in Melbourne, Australia, found ivermectin was able to stop growth of a COVID laboratory sample within 48 hours.
However, the university released a statement stressing that the drug cannot be used to treat COVID until further testing has been done to establish its effectiveness at safe levels.