Missouri Poison Center receiving uptick in calls about ivermectin consumption

Published: Aug. 25, 2021 at 10:18 PM CDT
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SPRINGFIELD, Mo. (KY3) - The Missouri Poison Center says it has been receiving an uptick in calls about ivermectin consumption, leading to some dangerous side effects.

The medication is often used to prevent and treat parasites in large animals, such as horses or cows. However, it can be prescribed to humans in certain cases.

“It’s used in humans, for different types of like pinworms and worms, but also for other purposes, like a dermal condition called rosacea,” Missouri Poison Center Director Julie Weber said.

Weber said the issue now is that many people have begun using it without being prescribed to it by a healthcare provider. Most recently, many people across Missouri and the United States have started using it to help treat and prevent COVID-19.

But local doctors and the FDA have said the medication is not anti-viral, and is not approved to help treat COVID-19. Local doctors say there has been a lot of misinformation about COVID-19 and treatment methods.

“It’s not safe to take therapeutics that are recommended by people who may not be medical experts,” said Dr. Nancy Yoon, Chief Medical Officer with the Springfield-Greene County Health Department. “We definitely caution against medications that are not approved for humans, that are really just being given on an experimental basis.”

However, many have still self-prescribed it. Experts say the biggest issue is that many are often using the animal form of ivermectin.

”Veterinary products are much more dangerous because of the strength,” Weber said. “There are recommended doses for humans that are in microgram amounts. But when we’re looking at formulations for animals, it’s a milligram amount. So it’s a much larger dose.”

Weber said these high dosages can lead to very serious side effects, including organ damage, hallucination, diarrhea, nausea and vomiting.

”The more serious effects that we’re seeing is that it can lead to seizures or even coma when larger amounts are ingested in the veterinary product,” she said.

Most calls to the Missouri Poison Center have not been from those prescribed to the drug.

”The majority of those cases that we’ve had, this month especially, have been intentional misuse of a product,” Weber said. “And without a health care provider recommendation.”

There have been 39 reported cases and exposures this year, with a major spike in July. The reported cases are more than triple all of last year. And while that number may not seem very large, Weber said there are some important implications.

”People aren’t mandated to report to the poison center,” she said. “So these are just passive reports of people calling for help. So the incidence could be much higher.”

A spokesperson for Mercy Springfield issued the following statement:

The FDA has not approved Ivermectin for the prevention or treatment of COVID-19. Mercy does not promote the use of any form of Ivermectin for this purpose – a topic which has surfaced due to the spread of misinformation. We cannot stress enough: Do not take medications such as these without consulting your physician and please do not take any medication intended for animals. Your best defense against COVID-19 is to become vaccinated.

A spokesperson for CoxHealth said doctors at the hospital have seen a considerable number of cases where people had become sick from the drug. The hospital spokesperson said doctors have frequently seen patients use ivermectin and still become hospitalized for COVID-19.

Many local farm supply and veterinary supply stores told KY3 they had seen an uptick in sales. Many shops said they warn customers the drug is not meant for humans, but ultimately cannot control what the customer does with it.

If you have been exposed to a toxic substance and need to report a case, you can reach the Missouri Poison Center at (800) 222-1222.

To report a correction or typo, please email digitalnews@ky3.com

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