Pharmacist details ivermectin’s dangerous snowball effect

Some Americans are turning to a medication approved to treat parasitic infections and skin conditions as an answer against COVID-19, despite the lack of data supporting ivermectin's use against the novel coronavirus. That’s why the U.S. Food and Drug Administration urges against using ivermectin beyond traditionally prescribed uses.

UW Medicine clinical pharmacist Rupali Jain says misinformation and desperation are to blame for the increasing demand for ivermectin.

“Unfortunately, I think we're at a state where there's a lot of uncertainty, and I think people are grasping for anything that they think may be helpful,” says Jain.

Jain explains that when the formulation of ivermectin intended for humans is taken at the correct dosage for appropriate conditions, it is generally safe.  Danger is created when people take doses far too large or seek out the highly potent formulation intended for animals.

“[It] can be purchased at veterinary stores or grain stores, and unfortunately this is a highly concentrated formulation of ivermectin,” says Jain. “We’re concerned that patients could have an overdose and have these toxicities, but then they could also be exposed to all these inactive ingredients that have not been tested in humans.”

An inappropriate dosage of ivermectin can cause nausea, vomiting, diarrhea, low blood pressure and dizziness. More severe reactions are coma and death.

Ongoing FDA clinical trials are assessing whether ivermectin at any dosage is effective against COVID-19.

Health leaders agree that getting vaccinated is the safest, most effective way to protect against severe COVID-19 illness. Free vaccinations are available through UW Medicine.

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