Poison Center Pointers: Ivermectin

Experts from the NNEPC poison help line address ivermectin, the drug that’s been in the news quite a bit lately, in this month’s episode of our Poison Center Pointers podcast. What is ivermectin used for? What problems are associated with improper use? Are people poisoning themselves with ivermectin?

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Disclaimer: Poison Center Pointers is brought to you by the Northern New England Poison Center. This podcast is not to replace timely advice or recommendations. If you have an actual poisoning emergency, scenario, or question, contact the Northern New England Poison Center by calling 1-800-222-1222, text the word “poison” to 85511, or chat online at nnepc.org.

Welcome to Poison Center Pointers, a podcast presented to you by the Northern New England Poison Center.

Chris: Hello, and welcome back to Poison Center Pointers. We appreciate everyone out there who’s been listening, and we appreciate all your feedback as well. My name is Chris. Again joined by Carolyn and Karlee.

Carolyn: Hi Chris. Hey, wait a minute. No old joke?

Chris: I was going to give you the week off.

Carolyn: Think I’m too old to take it?

Chris: Let me think of something.

Karlee: Stay tuned to next episode.

Chris: No, just give me a few minutes here. So, just a quick spiel as to what we do here. Again, we’re here to share our knowledge and experience dealing with everyday situations we help manage at the poison center. Our goal is to keep the community safe by preventing a poisoning or to make sure you know what to do if one occurs. And today’s topic… We’re hoping to prevent a few poisonings, right? We’re talking about something that’s all over the news. All over the internet. Ivermectin and its use in treating COVID. We want to talk about what you need to know from our perspective. So, why are we talking about it? What’s going on?

Carolyn: Well, we’re talking about it, basically, because of what you just said. It is all over the internet, in the news, and people are using it inappropriately. They’re using it in ways that can be poisonous.

Chris: How so?

Karlee: Essentially trying to either prevent or even treat COVID-19.

Chris: So there’s some data that came out across the country that suggesting that we have a 9-fold increase in cases that have been managed in the month of August. So, that’s just cases. That’s not even called or questions. So let’s talk about what exactly ivermectin is.

Carolyn: Yeah. Ivermectin is something that is used in people. It’s used for things like scabies and head lice. It’s used for parasites. It’s used in pets for things like heartworm. That’s probably where you’ve most likely seen it, if you have a dog. And it’s also used for parasites in livestock. It is not used for viruses.

Karlee: Yeah. I think parasite and virus are the keywords here. So, COVID-19 is a virus, and Ivermectin is approved for use for parasites.

Chris: So what are our concerns then from the Poison Center’s perspective? If someone is using something inappropriately for a virus?

Carolyn: Yeah, there’s so many concerns. And starting with the formulation that people are using is the one that is formulated for animals typically, because that’s what’s easiest for people to find at a store. A formulation that is used for a horse for example or a cow. And, as you can imagine, that is not the right dose for a person.

Karlee: Yeah, think about a 1200 pound horse versus a regular human. It’s just the big that comes into play is incorrect dosing, and humans essentially getting way overdosed.

Chris: And what else we worry about what these formulations?

Karlee: Yeah. With animal formulations, not just the active ingredient of ivermectin, there’s also inactive ingredients which are not approved for human use or known to be safe. So, it’s just generally recommended that any veterinary medicine is not used in humans for that reason also.

Chris: And we are the Poison Center. So what’s another big concern that we address here?

Carolyn:  Yeah, well that would be the toxicity. Or how poisonous something is. That’s kind of our thing. And people are taking it a couple different ways. The first way is there taking one large dose.

Chris: Yeah and there could be quite a few symptoms that could come from that. Including, obviously dependent on that amount taken, nausea, vomiting, diarrhea, dizziness, loss of coordination. And then in extreme situations where someone takes way too much, it can lead to confusion hallucinations rapid breathing and even seizures. So we’ve got a lot of concerns here.

Carolyn: Right, we’re not talking about a little stomach upset. We’re talking about things that can really affect yet. And this one large dose is just what we’re talking about with these animals formulations. Way too much for a person.

Chris: What about chronic situations? Which is another thing we’re worrying about here.

Karlee: Taking it chronically is not without risks either. A big thing I wanted to mention was that there are potential for drug interactions. So, you know, the way that ivermectin is, the way that your body gets rid of it. There’s other medications that go through this pathway that can be affected. So, it can have effects on your daily medications. Like heart medications. There’s a long list. Um, Warfarin, if you’re taking that to prevent a blood clot. Just things that it can interrupt and mess with.

Chris: She’s a pharmacist. You should probably trust her on this.

Carolyn: She knows that stuff. And the thing about chronically, you know, when people take it, they may take it chronically which just means they take it for several days or several times in a row. But, we’re seeing people take it for weeks and months. And we have a definite increase in toxic or poisonous symptoms.

Chris: Yeah, let’s talk about the science behind it too. Because, you know, a lot of this is stemming from the fact that people read online or they hear from a friend that this could be effective. What’s the evidence behind this?

Carolyn: Well, that’s the question isn’t it? The science is not good science. They’re being done in a way that doesn’t really prove that it works.

Karlee: And some of the information that we have, too, is being done in a way that some people can call “test tube” studies. So, good to just think of it like that. Just, in a test tube, or something outside of the human body. Just in a lab sort of situation.

Carolyn: Right. Not actually in people/

Karlee: Yeah, it doesn’t translate to a human. So it doesn’t really prove anything, and it’s just not good science that we can use.

Carolyn: And the amounts they’ve been talking about have been really large. Like we talked about that large dose. Doses that are not safe in people.

Chris: Yeah, and for this reason for this reason the FDA and the CDC have still determined that there is not enough evidence to suggest it be used for treatment or prevention of COVID.

Carolyn: Exactly.

Chris: Do we have anything that is effective and safe and proven for the prevention of COVID?

Carolyn: Well, I can think of one thing. Something we’ve all done here.

Karlee: Yeah.

Chris: What’s that?

Karlee: Getting vaccinated. That is good science.

Chris: And, important to note, if you have questions on the vaccines we are also here for you. We’re trained to know about these sort of things. You can always call us with questions, whether it’s about Ivermectin or it’s about the vaccine. We will still help you.

Carolyn: Or anything else for that matter.

Chris: If you are looking for more information about Ivermectin, you can go to our website. That’s nnepc.org. A new blog was just posted entitled “Answering Questions about Ivermectin”. It might have a little more helpful information for you. I believe that’s about all we wanted to cover, but we felt this was a really important topic, and we should just discuss this one thing today.

Carolyn: Right.

Chris: So. Thanks again for listening in to this episode of Poison Center Pointers.  Like, share, and subscribe to us on Facebook and Twitter and visit our website at nnepc.org. Remember, if you have an actual poisoning emergency, scenario, or even just a question, contact the Northern New England Poison Center by calling 1-800-222-1222, texting the word POISON to 85511, or chatting online.

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