PORTLAND, Ore. — Five Oregonians have been hospitalized since Aug. 1 after taking ivermectin to treat or prevent COVID-19. Ivermectin is a potent antiparasitic drug for which there is "no clinical data supporting its use for COVID-19," Oregon Health & Science University (OHSU) said.
OHSU said both the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) and Merck, the company that produces ivermectin, have said there is no scientific data that supports its use for COVID-19. Neither the FDA nor the National Institutes of Health have endorsed its use for COVID-19, according to OHSU.
"COVID-19 is a devastating disease and can be very frightening, but the public does not need to use — nor should it use — unproven and potentially dangerous drugs to fight it," said Robert Hendrickson, medical director of the Oregon Poison Center at Oregon Health & Science University and professor of emergency medicine in the OHSU School of Medicine.
Between Aug. 1 and Sept. 14, the Oregon Poison Center managed 25 cases of people who intentionally misused ivermectin to either prevent or treat COVID-19, according to OHSU. Five of those 25 people were hospitalized and two of the five were so sick, they had to be admitted to an intensive care unit (ICU).
OHSU said the symptoms the patients experienced included mental confusion, balance issues, low blood pressure and seizure. The patients' ages ranked from their 20s to their 80s, though most were older than 60. The number of men and women among the 25 cases was fairly equal, as was the division between people trying to prevent COVID-19 and those who were trying to treat it. OHSU said some people were able to obtain a prescription for human or veterinary forms of ivermectin.
Those who experience symptoms of COVID-19 or are exposed to it should contact their primary care provider. People should go to the emergency department only if they're experiencing severe symptoms, OHSU said.
"Health care providers can help COVID patients by prescribing treatments that are already carefully tested and approved," Hendrickson said. "And vaccination, in combination with masking, physical distancing, frequent hand-washing and other measures, continues to be the best way to avoid getting infected."
Those who take ivermectin for COVID-19 and have symptoms or questions can call the Oregon Poison Center at 800-222-1222.