AMARILLO, Texas (KAMR/KCIT) — The Texas Panhandle Poison Center said they have had a significant increase in calls when it comes to people taking ivermectin to prevent or treat COVID-19.
There are a few different forms of ivermectin. The FDA lists its usage as:
- Ivermectin tablets are approved by the FDA to treat people with intestinal strongyloidiasis and onchocerciasis, two conditions caused by parasitic worms. In addition, some topical (on the skin) forms of ivermectin are approved to treat external parasites like head lice and for skin conditions such as rosacea.
- Some forms of ivermectin are used in animals to prevent heartworm disease and certain internal and external parasites. It’s important to note that these products are different from the ones for people, and safe when used as prescribed for animals, only.
According to Dr. Jeanie Jaramillo-Stametz, the Managing Director of the Texas Panhandle Poison Center, the Texas Poison Center has seen a nearly 200% increase in ivermectin-related called across Texas from July to August. She said those calls are almost exclusively people taking the ivermectin meant for animals.
She said the Texas Panhandle Poison Center’s region, the top 71 counties of the state, has seen 22 since Jan. 1. The state has seen 347 total since Jan. 1.
“The animal products were not tested in humans, and they actually use inactive ingredients that were not designed or tested in humans. So those are more dangerous to us,” said Dr. Jaramillo-Stamzetz.
Some of those risks include gastrointestinal symptoms, like nausea, vomiting, abdominal pain, and diarrhea. And it does not stop there.
“We are having some people who have neurological effects. So they’re having difficulty walking. They’re having vision disturbances, hallucinations, some slurred speech. So this drug does have the ability to affect the central nervous system, and that can be extremely dangerous and is what’s really concerning us with this us,” said Dr. Jaramillo-Stamzetz.
The FDA has not approved the drug for use in treating or preventing COVID-19 in humans, saying it is not an anti-viral drug, and adding that taking large doses of this drug is “dangerous and can cause serious harm.”
Amarillo doctors are urging those who are self-medicating with the drug to stop.
“To patients that are self-medicating, I would say stop. There’s not a mechanism and a scenario in which you’re going to Tractor Supply and buying something to treat a disease yourself is going to be a good idea,” said Amarillo’s Public Health Authority, Dr. Todd Bell.
“Anything you put in your body that is a substance, whether it’s ‘natural’ or whether it’s synthetic, has the potential for toxicity,” said BSA’s Chief Medical Officer, Dr. Michael Lamanteer. “In the setting of ivermectin, number one, we have now case reports in our medical literature, where folks are coming in with ivermectin toxicity because they’re taking preparations and dosages that are meant to be for animals, not humans, and it’s ridiculous that they would have faith in doing something like that compared to a lack of faith in a vaccine.”
“Currently, the trials on ivermectin show that it is not effective at treating or preventing COVID, and there have been quite a few trials that have looked at this,” said Dr. Jaramillo-Stamzetz. “So they were hoping it would show that it was helpful. It’s not showing that it was helpful. So basically, anytime you start any drug therapy, you weigh the benefits of therapy against the risks, and right now we’re not seeing a benefit from ivermectin but we’re seeing some pretty significant risks.”
Some doctors are prescribing ivermectin to patients. Dr. Jaramillo-Stametz said she considers it the “kitchen sink” philosophy, saying, “Let’s try whatever’s out there to see if it works. Unfortunately, there are toxicities associated with this.”
“For doctors who prescribe that what I would say is we’ve got other things with better data. Again, if the patient can benefit from the monoclonal antibody infusion, send them to get the monoclonal antibody infusion. We’ve got good data for that,” said Dr. Bell. “I think that there are options that are out there that we’ve got better data for then with the ivermectin at this point.”
“For providers that are prescribing ivermectin, I would plead that you stopped doing so, and I would challenge you to go back and look at the data on ivermectin to date in terms of its efficacy,” said Dr. Lamanteer. “I think if you do that with a scrutinizing I like you were trained in medical school, they’ll stop prescribing ivermectin.”
Dr. Jaramillo-Stamzetz said if someone wants to continue to use ivermectin, to at least not use the animal version.
“If you have human-designed ivermectin that would be preferred because it has actually been tested in humans,” she said. “There’s really no evidence that it’s effective and you’re risking having those toxic effects. So we just highly do not recommend using it.”
All three doctors say the best defense against COVID-19 is the vaccines.
“It’s really scary that people are doing this, to me, you know? They’re so scared. They don’t want to use a vaccine because they’re afraid of what’s going to happen, yet they’ll choose something that’s not tested for this not knowing what’s gonna happen,” said Dr. Jaramillo-Stamzetz.
Dr. Jaramillo-Stamzetz said if you have taken ivermectin and start to develop symptoms you are concerned about, call the Texas Poison Center at 1-800-222-1222.