PORTLAND, Ore. — There have been at least five cases of Oregonians being hospitalized after misusing the antiparasitic drug ivermectin since the beginning of August as the state continues to see a spike in poisoning cases related to the drug, according to Oregon Health & Science University.
Between August 1 and September 14, the Oregon Poison Center reported 25 cases involving Oregonians intentionally misusing ivermectin to treat or prevent COVID-19. Five of those cases resulted in hospitalization, and two were so severely ill that they were admitted to an intensive care unit.
Last year, the Oregon Poison Center saw only a handful of cases involving ivermectin misuse, and there were relatively few this year until the summer.
The Oregon Poison Center also serves Alaska and Guam, but officials say that most cases involving ivermectin this year have come from Oregon.
“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 Dr. Robert Hendrickson, medical director of the Oregon Poison Center at OHSU and professor of emergency medicine in the OHSU School of Medicine.
While ivermectin does have approved uses as an antiparasitic in both humans and animals, it has not received FDA approval for use in humans to treat or prevent COVID-19. Both the FDA and drug-maker Merck have underlined that there is no reliable scientific data to support ivermectin's use for COVID-19. OHSU says that initial lab research indicated that ivermectin might be able to treat COVID-19, but human trials did not support the theory that it could decrease symptoms or cure the disease.
“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.”
The Oregon Poison Center reports that recent cases of ivermectin poisoning involved mental confusion, balance issues, low blood pressure and seizures. The patients were in their 20s through their 80s, although most were older than 60. The cases were fairly evenly split between both men and women, and between people attempting to either prevent or treat COVID-19. Some cases involved individuals obtaining a prescription for either human or veterinary forms of the drug.
OHSU said that those who experience COVID-19 symptoms or are exposed to COVID-19 are encouraged to contact their primary care provider for assistance, and to only go to an emergency department if they are experiencing severe symptoms and need emergency medical assistance.
Oregonians who don’t have a primary care provider or have COVID-19 questions can call the OHSU COVID-19 Connected Care Center hotline: 833-647-8222. Those who take ivermectin for COVID-19 and have symptoms or questions can also call the Oregon Poison Center: 800-222-1222.