Some farm supply stores in the US have reported running short of products containing ivermectin, an antiparasitic dewormer, with people buying it in the belief it will cure Covid-19.
Official health warnings from the US Food and Drug Administration (FDA) and the World Health Organisation (WHO) have not stopped consumers in the US heading to rural supply stores to buy the product, according to a report in news and media site Slate.com. Suppliers say non-prescription invermectin has been “flying off the shelves”. Many have added warnings to products and in some cases, have pulled ivermectin products off their shelves.
Ivermectin as a cure for Covid first came to light last year, when researchers at Monash University in Australia reported that ivermectin could kill the novel coronavirus within 48 hours in a laboratory setting. At the time, Monash stressed that whilst it was shown to be effective in the lab environment, further testing and clinical trials were needed to establish the effectiveness of the drug at levels safe for human dosing.
In a recent review by Cochrane, an international organization that reviews medical research and provides guidance about clinical practice, the authors noted that “based on the current very low‐to low‐certainty evidence, we are uncertain about the efficacy and safety of ivermectin used to treat or prevent Covid‐19”.
“The completed studies are small and few are considered high quality. Several studies are under way that may produce clearer answers in review updates. Overall, the reliable evidence available does not support the use of ivermectin for treatment or prevention of Covid‐19 outside of well‐designed randomized trials.”
In a statement last year, the US Food and Drug Administration (FDA) warned of the off-label use of ivermectin, saying it was concerned about the health of consumers who may self-medicate by taking products intended for animals, thinking they can be a substitute for ivermectin intended for humans.
“Ivermectin tablets are approved for use in people for the treatment of some parasitic worms (intestinal strongyloidiasis and onchocerciasis) and ivermectin topical formulations are approved for human use by prescription-only for the treatment of external parasites such as headlice and skin conditions such as rosacea. Ivermectin is FDA-approved for use in animals for prevention of heartworm disease in some small animal species, and for treatment of certain internal and external parasites in various animal species.
“It’s important to note that these products are different from the ones for people, and safe when used as prescribed for animals, only.
“People should never take animal drugs, as the FDA has only evaluated their safety and effectiveness in the particular animal species for which they are labeled. These animal drugs can cause serious harm in people. People should not take any form of ivermectin unless it has been prescribed to them by a licensed health care provider and is obtained through a legitimate source.”
The FDA says some of the side-effects in humans that may be associated with ivermectin include skin rash, nausea, vomiting, diarrhea, stomach pain, facial or limb swelling, neurologic adverse events (dizziness, seizures, confusion), sudden drop in blood pressure, severe skin rash potentially requiring hospitalization and liver injury (hepatitis).
Laboratory test abnormalities include a decrease in white cell count and elevated liver tests, the FDA said.
“Any use of ivermectin for the prevention or treatment of Covid-19 should be avoided as its benefits and safety for these purposes have not been established. Data from clinical trials are necessary for us to determine whether ivermectin is safe and effective in treating or preventing Covid-19.”