Washington (Associated Press)-Health experts and medical groups are working to eliminate the increasing use of a decades-old parasite drug to treat COVID-19 and warn that it can cause harmful side effects. And there is little evidence that it helps.
With the fourth wave of infections, more and more Americans are turning to ivermectin, a cheap drug used to kill worms and other parasites in humans and animals.
This summer, federal health officials saw a surge in prescriptions, while reported overdose was worrying. Despite federal warnings to prohibit the use of this drug, the drug has even been used to treat inmates in Northwest Arkansas prisons for COVID-19. On Wednesday, the podcaster Joe Rogan, who is dismissive of the COVID-19 vaccine, announced that he has tested positive for the virus and is taking medication.
Ivermectin has been promoted by Republican lawmakers, conservative talk show hosts and some doctors, and has been promoted through social media to millions of Americans who still resist vaccination. It is also widely used in other countries, including India and Brazil.
This week, a professional group of top doctors and pharmacists in the United States called for “immediately stop” the use of the drug outside of research.
The American Medical Association and two pharmacist groups stated: “We are urging doctors, pharmacists, and other prescribers-trusted healthcare professionals in their communities-to warn patients not to be listed on FDA-approved indications and guidance. Ivermectin is used outside.”
Currently, large studies are underway in the United States and overseas to determine whether the drug has any effect on preventing or reducing COVID-19.
The latest request comes after similar warnings from federal and state regulatory agencies, who are tracking side effects and hospitalizations related to the drug.
After receiving increased calls from the poison control center, Louisiana and Washington issued alarms. As people buy veterinary drugs to try to treat COVID-19, some animal feed supply stores have run out of drugs.
Randy McDonough, a pharmacist in Iowa City, Iowa, said: “There is currently no good evidence that this is a good way to treat or prevent COVID-19.”
Ivermectin is approved by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration for the treatment of roundworm and other tiny parasite infections in humans and animals (such as cattle, horses, and dogs). Pills are used to treat internal parasites, while ointments are used to treat head lice and other skin infections. The role of this generic drug is to paralyze the worms and kill their offspring.
The FDA is trying to debunk online claims that animal-strength versions of the drug can help fight COVID-19.
“Taking large doses of this drug is dangerous and can cause serious harm,” the FDA warned in a statement. Public consultationThe agency stated that the drug can cause nausea, vomiting, diarrhea, seizures, delirium and even death.
Dr. David Boulware of the University of Minnesota said that the side effects of the drug are twice or even three times the usual human dose. But the formula used for farm animals may contain 1,000 times safer for humans.
“It’s easy to reach toxic levels,” said Boulware, an infectious disease expert. “All these concentrated doses for 2,000-pound horses will definitely make people sick or hospitalized due to poisoning.”
Boulware said that he prescribes the drug several times a year in the United States, and he prescribes the drug more often when working in countries where intestinal parasites are common. But he and other experts were shocked by the explosive growth of ivermectin prescriptions in the United States.
By mid-August, U.S. pharmacies had prescribed 88,000 medications per week, a 24 times increase from the level before COVID. Center for Disease Control and PreventionAt the same time, emergency calls related to the drug received by the US Poison Control Center have increased fivefold, and some incidents require hospitalization.
The World Health Organization, the National Institutes of Health and other medical experts also advise against using it outside of strictly controlled patient research. The NIH team found “Insufficient evidence” Supporting or opposing drugs for COVID-19 requires larger, well-designed trials.
Experts point out that early laboratory studies have shown that ivermectin slows down the replication of the coronavirus when it grows in monkey cells. But such research is not useful for measuring the effectiveness of human beings in the real world. They also pointed out that other studies have shown that the drug needs to be administered at 100 times the standard dose to produce antiviral effects in humans.
The National Institutes of Health is studying this drug in a large trial, comparing six established drugs to see if they have a certain effect on COVID-19.
Experts say that those interested in ivermectin should ask whether to participate in such research.
“By participating in a clinical trial, you will not harm yourself, and you will help society generate the knowledge we need to know if this is effective,” Boulware said.
Associated Press writer Andrew DeMillo contributed to this story in Little Rock, Arkansas
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