Chicago’s top doctor warned against taking ivermectin to treat or prevent COVID-19 on Tuesday and joined a chorus of health officials urging the public to avoid the parasite medicine normally used in horses and cattle.
“First of all, please, never take drugs that are designed for animals. It’s dangerous and can really be a problem,” said Dr. Allison Arwady, Commissioner for the Chicago Department of Health.
Ivermectin is a de-wormer used in veterinary medicine, according to Arwady, and has caused “all kinds of problems” in people who choose to consume it, such as liver problems and nausea.
According to the U.S. Food and Drug Administration, symptoms of an ivermectin overdose include nausea, vomiting, diarrhea, low blood pressure, allergic reactions, dizziness, imbalance, seizures, coma, and death.
“I would encourage anyone who has serious signs of COVID. Please don’t wait, see your doctor and talk about treatments, ”added Arwady.
She said there are some studies planning to look at ivermectin as a COVID treatment, similar to other drugs, but there is currently no evidence that the parasite drug has any effect on coronavirus prevention.
“I’m a little surprised, I think, that there are people who want to take a non-FDA approved veterinary drug, but then, you know, don’t want to take the vaccine that has had and is really widespread human trials [FDA] approved, “said Arwady.
The FDA has also urged people to stop using the veterinary drug used to treat or prevent COVID after receiving multiple reports of patients hospitalized after “self-medication with ivermectin for horses,” the federal agency said.
“You are not a horse. You are not a cow. Seriously, all of you. Stop it, ”the FDA tweeted from its official account on Saturday, along with a consumer update detailing why the drug may be unsafe for humans.
Ivermectin has been promoted by Republican lawmakers, Conservative talk show hosts, and some doctors, and has been given out on social media to millions of Americans who are still not vaccinated. It was widely used in other countries as well, including India and Brazil.
Federal health officials saw a surge in prescriptions this summer, accompanied by a worrying spike in reported overdoses. The drug was even given to inmates of a prison in northwest Arkansas for COVID-19, despite federal warnings against its use.
Last week, podcaster Joe Rogan, who opposed the COVID-19 vaccine, announced that he had tested positive for the virus and was taking the drug.
At the same time, the leading US professional groups for doctors and pharmacists called for an “immediate end” to drug use outside of research.
“We urge physicians, pharmacists, and other prescribers – trusted health professionals in their communities – to warn patients not to use ivermectin outside of FDA-approved indications and guidelines,” said the American Medical Association and two pharmacist groups.
Louisiana and Washington issued warnings after calls to poison control centers rose. Some pet food stores have run out of medication because people bought the veterinary form to treat COVID-19.
The drug has also been at the center of litigation in recent weeks.
A judge ruled Monday that an Ohio hospital cannot be forced to give ivermectin to a patient for COVID-19, overturning an earlier decision that ordered him to be given the parasite drug.
In an 11-page ruling, Hamilton County Common Pleas Judge Michael Oster Jr. wrote that “there is no doubt that the medical and scientific community does not support the use of ivermectin to treat Covid-19”.
According to current knowledge, wrote Oster, the drug was “not an effective treatment for Covid-19”.
The World Health Organization, the National Institutes of Health, and other medical experts have also advised against using it outside of carefully controlled patient studies. An NIH panel found “insufficient evidence” for or against the drug for COVID-19 and called for larger, well-designed studies.
Large studies are currently underway in the U.S. and overseas to determine whether the drug has any effect on preventing or mitigating COVID-19.