Five Oregonians hospitalized with ivermectin misuse for COVID-19

The drug ivermectin is controversially used to treat or prevent COVID-19, forcing some people to require medical attention. (Getty Images)

Five Oregonians were recently hospitalized for consuming a potent antiparasitic drug despite the lack of clinical data supporting its use for COVID-19. The Oregon Poison Center strongly recommends that the public use only scientifically proven and FDA approved methods to fight the novel coronavirus.

The Oregon Poison Center has handled 25 cases involving Oregonians intentionally using ivermectin to treat or prevent COVID-19 between August 1 and September 14. Five of those cases involved hospitalization, and two people were so seriously ill that they had to be admitted to an intensive care unit. Although the Oregon Poison Center also serves Alaska and Guam, the vast majority of ivermectin cases it has handled this year are from Oregon.

Headbutt from Robert Hendrickson MD

Robert Hendrickson, MD

“COVID-19 is a devastating disease and can be very frightening, but the public does not need – nor should they use – unproven and potentially dangerous drugs to fight it,” said Robert Hendrickson, MD, medical director of the Oregon Poison Center at Oregon Health & Science University and professor of emergency medicine at the OHSU School of Medicine.

“Healthcare providers can help COVID patients by prescribing treatments that are already thoroughly tested and approved,” Hendrickson said. “And vaccination, coupled with masking, physical distancing, frequent hand washing and other measures, continues to be the best way to avoid getting infected.”

Recent cases from the Oregon Poison Center involved a variety of symptoms, including mental confusion, problems with balance, low blood pressure, and seizures. The patients were between 20 and 80 years old, although most were over 60 years old. Cases were fairly evenly distributed between men and women, and among people trying to prevent or treat COVID-19. Some cases involved people obtaining a prescription for human or veterinary forms of the drug.

The Food and Drug Administration and Merck, which manufactures ivermectin for human use, have announced that there is no scientific data supporting its use for COVID-19. Neither the FDA nor the National Institutes of Health have approved its use for COVID-19, and the OHSU does not recommend any use of ivermectin for COVID-19. Early lab research indicated that ivermectin may be able to treat COVID-19, but when tested in human trials, ivermectin did not decrease symptoms or cure the disease.

Ivermectin is approved to treat certain parasites in humans and animals.

People who are showing symptoms of COVID-19 or are exposed to COVID-19 are encouraged to contact their primary care provider for help and to only go to an emergency department if they are showing symptoms. serious and in need of emergency medical assistance. Residents of Oregon who do not have a primary care provider or have questions about COVID-19 can call the OHSU COVID-19 Connected Care Center hotline: 833-647-8222. Those taking ivermectin for COVID-19 and having symptoms or questions can also call the Oregon Poison Center: 800-222-1222.

If you or a loved one has a poison control emergency, call the Oregon Poison Control Center at 800-222-1222. A qualified health care provider is available 24 hours a day, 7 days a week. The call is free and confidential. Poison prevention education and other resources on poison safety are available at https://www.ohsu.edu/oregon-poison-center. Accredited by the American Association of Poison Control Centers, the Oregon Poison Center is a designated regional poison control center for Oregon, Alaska, and Guam.

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