5 Oregonians hospitalized after trying to treat COVID-19 with roundworm-killing drug

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According to the Oregon Poison Center at Oregon Health and Science University, five Oregonians were hospitalized because they abused the dewormer drug ivermectin in an attempt to treat or prevent COVID-19.

The patients presented with symptoms such as dizziness, balance problems, changes in blood pressure and seizures. Two people fell so ill that they were admitted to intensive care. There is no credible scientific evidence to support the idea that ivermectin has an effect against COVID-19.

The Food and Drug Administration, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, and the World Health Organization are among the groups that have warned against the use of ivermectin (shown here in India) in treating COVID patients -19.

Soumyabrata Roy / NurPhoto / Getty Images

In total, the Oregon Poison Center saw 25 patients who became ill because they deliberately misused ivermectin between August 1 and September 14. Since ivermectin requires a prescription in humans, some of the patients had attempted to self-medicate using an over-the-counter form of the drug.

These hospitalizations came during Oregon’s worst COVID-19 wave to date. Since the beginning of August, hospitals have been managing an influx of patients and some have had to ration care. Hospital administrators and state officials have called on people to avoid unnecessary risks to keep hospital beds available for those who need them.

“COVID-19 is a devastating disease and can be very frightening, but the public does not need – nor should use – potentially dangerous drugs to fight it,” said Dr. Robert Hendrickson, medical director of the Oregon Poison Center.

Ivermectin has been called a wonder drug, but that doesn’t mean it cures all ailments. It’s really good at killing one type of thing: roundworms that infect humans, animals, and plants. Some cause mild stomach problems or rashes. Others cause debilitating illnesses like river blindness. Diseases caused by roundworms are among the leading causes of death and disability worldwide.

Roundworms are a type of animal called a nematode, and they can range in size from microscopic to three feet in length, although most are smaller. From an evolutionary perspective, this means that roundworms are more closely related to humans than they are like viruses, bacteria, or even plants. Ivermectin is extremely effective in killing roundworms and related animals: just one dose of ivermectin per year is enough to cure river blindness.

This is why it is so surprising that ivermectin has become the latest unfounded and potential cure-all for COVID-19. While some drugs that treat one thing may later be found to treat another, it is never advisable to take a drug that can kill flies and worms in one dose, for weeks at a time. Especially if this medication is taken without the supervision of a doctor, using an over the counter version intended for horses.

There is an overwhelming scientific consensus that ivermectin cannot be used to treat or prevent COVID-19, and the article that originally popularized the drug as COVID-19 the treatment was retracted for plagiarism and falsification of data.

Researchers have been studying the idea that ivermectin could be used as an antiviral drug for several years. But these tests were done “in vitro” in the lab, which means they were done in a lab using human cells. So far, those the results have never been reproduced in tests on live animals. It’s no surprise: most drugs that work in the lab don’t work in real life. In fact, the majority of drugs that go beyond animal testing and progress to human trials end up not working. This is partly why it is so difficult to find new drugs.

Because ivermectin is not an effective treatment or preventative for COVID-19, as case reports have increased, the Food and Drug Administration has issued an advisory stating that it should not be prescribed to treat COVID-19. The World Health Organization and other public health agencies around the world have issued similar statements.

If you or someone you know has become ill after taking ivermectin, contact the Oregon Poison Control Center at 800-222-1222.

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