The disease COVID-19, caused by the novel coronavirus SARS-CoV-2, has resulted in hundreds of millions of illnesses and millions of deaths across the globe.
The U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) has approved or authorized several COVID-19 therapies that can help prevent or lessen the severity of the disease. These drugs and vaccines are safe and effective.
Throughout the pandemic, many have explored alternative treatments to prevent or treat COVID-19. These unproven treatments can result in illness and even death.
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What Is Ivermectin?
The drug ivermectin has not been proven effective in the treatment or prevention of COVID-19.
Ivermectin is an anti-parasitic drug used in animals, including livestock like horses and cows. It may be used in your dog’s heartworm medication. In humans, doctors may prescribe ivermectin in lower doses to treat rare parasitic worms. It may also be prescribed as a topical lotion to treat lice or rosacea.
Ivermectin has not been shown effective in treating or preventing COVID-19. Initial interest in the drug was spurred by research that has since been retracted. More reliable studies of ivermectin do not show a benefit in treating COVID-19.
It is dangerous for humans to ingest medications meant for animals, and you should never take ivermectin without the guidance of your doctor. If you take unprescribed ivermectin, you may experience:
In rare instances, ivermectin overdose can result in seizures, coma, or even death.
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‘Risk Without Benefit’: Ivermectin for COVID-19
Michael Lynch, MD, medical director, Pittsburgh Poison Center at UPMC Presbyterian, says his office has seen an uptick in calls from people who have ingested ivermectin. Cases began to rise in the last few weeks as misinformation about the drug spread online.
“The first thing to know is that ivermectin doesn’t work (for COVID-19),” Dr. Lynch says. “It is risk without benefit.”
Dr. Lynch says his office has answered an increasing number of calls over the last year from those who have attempted to treat or prevent COVID-19 with alternative or homeopathic methods. Before August 2021, most calls about ivermectin were related to accidental exposure — people who took the veterinary drug by mistake, he says.
“We have definitely seen an increase in calls for it this year. About half those calls have been over the last two weeks,” Dr. Lynch says.
Contact the Pittsburgh Poison Center for Ivermectin Exposure
If you or a loved one has taken unprescribed ivermectin, contact the Pittsburgh Poison Center at 1-800-222-1222.
The Pittsburgh Poison Center operates 24 hours a day, seven days a week with a staff that specializes in clinical toxicology. A staff member will provide a free medical consultation over the phone and guidance on the next steps you should take.
“Every case and every incident are different. The concentration, the dose, the person, how large they are,” Dr. Lynch says
The best way to prevent serious illness from COVID-19 is by receiving a COVID-19 vaccine. Visit our website to learn more and schedule your vaccine appointment. If you have severe COVID-19 symptoms, contact your doctor for care.
For more information on the Pittsburgh Poison Center, visit our website.
Headquartered in Pittsburgh, UPMC is a world-renowned health care provider and insurer. We operate 40 hospitals and 700 doctors’ offices and outpatient centers, with locations in central and western Pennsylvania, Maryland, New York, and internationally. We employ 4,900 physicians, and we are leaders in clinical care, groundbreaking research, and treatment breakthroughs. U.S. News & World Report consistently ranks UPMC Presbyterian Shadyside as one of the nation’s best hospitals in many specialties and ranks UPMC Children’s Hospital of Pittsburgh on its Honor Roll of America’s Best Children’s Hospitals.