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Is Washington poisoning itself with ivermectin? Poison control looks at the data

A box and container of ivermectin. (Photographer: Dimas Ardian/Bloomberg via Getty Images)

There is a growing interest in the non-FDA sanctioned use of the drug ivermectin for the prevention and treatment of COVID-19. Dr. Scott Phillips, director of the Washington Poison Center, appeared on KTTH’s Jason Rantz Show to clarify the extent to which this trend has befallen Washington state.

“There’s been a three to four fold increase in the number of calls,” Phillips said. “That’s not the same thing as poisoning cases. But this year we’ve had 43 calls on ivermectin so far. Last year it was 10.”

He clarified that 29 of those 43 calls were exposure related, and 14 were simply requests for information about the drug. Of those 29 exposure calls, most were concerns about gastrointestinal symptoms, like nausea and vomiting.

“A couple people” experienced confusion and neurological symptoms, something that Dr. Phillips characterized as a serious reaction. He confirmed that Washington state has experienced no ivermectin related fatalities.

He also stated that the ivermectin poisonings result from both human prescriptions and doses intended for farm animals.

“[Ivermectin] has been around a long time,” Phillips said. “It was actually first developed and identified in Japan in the early 1970s, and actually in the early 1980s won a Nobel prize for its benefit for preventing certain types of parasitic diseases. So it’s been around a long time, and the human doses actually are quite small compared to the veterinary doses. A lot of the difficulties come from not adjusting the dose correctly. That’s where we see a lot of symptoms. People are just taking too much of [the drug].”

Dr. Phillips went on to confirm that the uptick in ivermectin poisoning is a trend observed nationwide.

Local officials express frustration as ivermectin poison control calls triple statewide

“I think that there’s clearly a statistical, marked increase in the number of calls that poison centers are receiving nationwide,” Phillips added. “There’s no question about that. I think, fortunately, the number of deaths, or what we categorize as major illnesses, have been pretty limited. I urge anybody, no matter whether it’s ivermectin or something else, if they’re having adverse effects from a medication that they’ve taken, to call the poison center. We can certainly help them out with that.”

According to the Food and Drug Administration, ivermectin tablets are approved for humans to treat intestinal strongyloidiasis and onchocerciasis, two conditions caused by parasitic worms. There are also topical formulas to treat head lice and skin conditions like rosacea.

If you are prescribed ivermectin, the FDA says you should “fill it through a legitimate source such as a pharmacy, and take it exactly as prescribed.”

Ivermectin approved for humans can interact with other drugs, such as blood-thinners.

“You can also overdose on ivermectin, which can cause nausea, vomiting, diarrhea, hypotension (low blood pressure), allergic reactions (itching and hives), dizziness, ataxia (problems with balance), seizures, coma and even death, the FDA posted on its website.

Formulas for animals have been approved in the U.S. to treat or prevent parasites. Those include pour-on, injectable, paste, and “drench.” These formulas are different from the ones intended for people. Drugs used for animals are often highly-concentrated for large animals. Additionally, inactive ingredients found in drugs for animals may not be evaluated for human consumption.

“The FDA has received multiple reports of patients who have required medical attention, including hospitalization, after self-medicating with ivermectin intended for livestock,” the FDA posted on its website.

The FDA says there is no data available to show that ivermectin is effective against COVID-19. However, there are ongoing clinical trials assessing ivermectin tablets for the prevention and treatment of COVID-19.

Listen to the Jason Rantz Show weekday afternoons from 3 – 6 p.m. on KTTH 770 AM (or HD Radio 97.3 FM HD-Channel 3). Subscribe to the podcast here.

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