People take dangerous doses of an anti-parasitic drug as a COVID-19 treatment, even though there is no solid evidence that it has any benefit for the disease.
The drug, called ivermectin, is often used to treat or prevent parasitic diseases in animals, such as heartworms. Food and Drug AdministrationIn humans, some forms of the drug are used to treat parasitic worms, and a topical version of it is sometimes used to treat head lice
But recently, misinformation about ivermectin has led some people to take the drug for COVID-19, even though it’s not approved for this use. The idea of using ivermectin for COVID-19 came about last year when a study by researchers in Australia found that large doses of the drug showed activity against the new coronavirus in laboratory dishes, The Washington Post reportedBut human studies were limited and showed mixed results. The Infectious Disease Society of America does not recommend the use of ivermectin for COVID-19 outside of clinical studies.
Some people use veterinary forms of the drug because they believe those formulations are easier to obtain than those prescribed for humans The Washington Post
That can have dangerous consequences: Veterinary forms of the drug meant for large animals, such as horses and cows, come in very high doses that, according to the FDA, can be very toxic to humans. The agency says it has received multiple reports of people hospitalized after self-medicating with a form of ivermectin intended for horses.
In humans, overdose of the drug can cause nausea, vomiting, low blood pressure, allergic reactions, seizures, coma, and even death, the FDA says. And even smaller doses of the veterinary medicinal product can pose risks. That’s because many inactive ingredients in veterinary drugs have not been studied for use in humans, and these inactive ingredients can pose risks and affect how the drug is metabolized in humans, the FDA says.
Research on ivermectin continues, and the National Institutes of Health may study the drug as part of a clinical trial looking to reuse older drugs to treat COVID-19, the Post said. (The inclusion of ivermectin in that trial has not been confirmed, however, the Post reported.)
In the meantime, the FDA warns that taking a drug for unapproved use can be dangerous, and that people should never take any medications intended for animals.
Originally published on Live Science.