AmericaMany people rushed to buy deworming and anti-parasitic drugs ivermectin to treat or prevent Covid-19, despite warnings from authorities.
Last week, emergency physician Gregory Yu, based in San Antonio, received a familiar request from someone who has and has not been vaccinated. They suggested that he prescribe ivermectin, a drug that treats worms and parasites, to prevent Covid-19.
Dr. Yu decided to refuse, but he knew some of his colleagues did the opposite. Consumption of the drug ivermectin in the US has increased sharply in recent weeks, to more than 88,000 prescriptions per week in mid-August. The pre-pandemic average was 3,600 per week, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC).
Some pharmacists report drug shortages. Travis Walthall, a pharmacist in Kuna, a small town of about 20,000 people, says he has supplied ivermectin for more than 20 prescriptions this summer alone, up from two to three a year earlier. Last week, he couldn’t get new drugs from the supplier, all of them were out of stock.
Walthall was surprised by the rumor of using unlicensed ivermectin to treat Covid-19. “God, this is horrible,” he said.
Usually, drugs for people with lice, scabies, used to deworm and treat other parasitic diseases. Ivermectin is more commonly prescribed for animals. Doctors warn that more and more people are buying medicine in liquid or solid form from pet stores.
Calls to a poison center after taking ivermectin increased significantly, five times the July average, according to the CDC and the American Association for Poison Control. The Mississippi Department of Health said earlier this month that 70% of recent calls to the poison control department were patients taking ivermectin from a pet store.
Shawn Varney, a toxicologist and medical director of the South Texas Poison Center, said that in 2019, his agency received 191 calls about ivermectin poisoning. Currently, the agency has received up to 260 calls, expected to reach 390 by the end of the year, most of them from people who have used pet medications to treat or prevent Covid-19.
“Everybody wants a cure for Covid-19 because it’s a terrible disease. But I want them to stop using ivermectin. Go get vaccinated, that’s the best protection at the moment. Everything else is fine. is risk after risk.” Dr. Varney said patients with ivermectin poisoning often present with nausea, muscle pain and diarrhea. He noted there have been drug-related deaths in the past. However, there have been no cases related to Covid-19.
The biggest risk, he added, is that many people take prescription drugs for animals, taking doses that are higher, sometimes 10 to 15 times, than is appropriate for humans.
“Many people go to feed stores and get prescriptions with high concentrations, because they are for animals weighing 450 kilograms. They put themselves at risk,” he said.
In a health advisory released on August 26, the CDC said the use of ivermectin may cause “gastrointestinal symptoms such as nausea, vomiting, and diarrhea, and overdose may lead to to hypotension and neurological effects such as decreased consciousness, loss of consciousness, hallucinations, convulsions, coma, and death.
Ivermectin was introduced as a veterinary drug in the 1970s. In 2015, his work on parasitic diseases won the Nobel Prize.
Although it has not been proven effective in treating Covid-19, many people are calling for buying and storing ivermectin in Facebook groups and Reddit. Some doctors compare this phenomenon to last year’s wave of the malaria drug hydroxychloroquine. However, hydroxychloroquine has more valuable clinical trials.
On August 21, the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) warned: “You are not a horse, you are not a cow. So stop it.”
A recent review of 14 studies involving ivermectin, with a total of 1,600 participants, concluded there is insufficient evidence that the drug prevents, improves, or reduces deaths from Covid-19. Another 31 studies are in progress.
Maria-Inti Metzendorf and Stephanie Weibel, the review’s authors, said: “Many people are interested in using inexpensive drugs like ivermectin as an alternative. Even under ideal conditions, the results are From clinical research to date, its benefits have not been established.
One of the largest trials of ivermectin as a Covid-19 treatment, the “Together Trial,” with 1,300 participants, was suspended on August 6 because the drug was no more effective than placebo in the compartment. prevent hospitalization or shorten the duration of treatment.
McMaster University professor Edward Mills, who led the work, said he and his colleagues would have stopped the study sooner if it weren’t for the level of public interest in ivermectin.
Other research shows that the drug is quite benign unless taken in high doses. Dr Eduardo López-Medina, Center for Children Infectious Diseases in Colombia, said the drug did not work to reduce Covid-19 symptoms.
“It appears to be safe, but not enough to be prescribed publicly. Doctors should use the drug in trials, but should not prescribe it to patients. The data are not strong enough to support its use.” he said.
Thuc Linh (Follow NY Times, CNN)