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Use of livestock drug for COVID-19 stemmed from ‘low-quality study’

I’m seeing lots of stories about ivermectin, and why people shouldn’t consume veterinary doses of the drug meant for livestock. I’m wondering, why are people talking about the drug in the first place?

— No name given

The short answer behind the the national discussion of ivermectin this week is a recent rise in poison control calls in the state of Mississippi.

If one screenshot making the rounds on social media over the weekend is to be believed, it’s not just Mississippi’s problem. According to a screenshot circulated by a Jefferson Public Radio reporter Sunday, an apparently deleted post on the Phoenix, Oregon community Facebook page apparently showed a local asking for a stranger to head to the Grange and pick up the livestock medicine for a son who’s sick.

“And I don’t want to hear anyone’s opinion on whether or not I should be taking it,” the post stated. “I’ve already made up my mind.”

The human form of ivermectin is typically prescribed by a doctor to treat intestinal parasites or as a topical cream to treat head lice or skin conditions such as rosacea, according to a Food and Drug Administration web page titled “Why You Should Not Use Ivermectin to Treat or Prevent COVID-19,” written in April of last year.

“Ivermectin is not an anti-viral (a drug for treating viruses),” the FDA states.

At human dose levels, ivermectin can interact with other medications such as blood-thinners. Those who overdose on the medicine can experience nausea, vomiting, low blood pressure, balance problems, dizziness, itching and hives or seizures. At more extreme levels, a person can go into a coma or die.

The FDA also warns that ivermectin products for animals are highly concentrated because they’re formulated for animals that can weigh significantly more than a human, and some inactive ingredients in veterinary medicines may not have been reviewed by the FDA as safe and effective to consume.

Ivermectin was developed in the 1970s from a bacterium in soil, according to a Trends in Parasitology journal article from June 2017.

It was first floated as potentially useful in the treatment of COVID-19 after an Antiviral Research journal that showed that ivermectin inhibited the replication of the coronavirus in lab conditions. According to Gavi, the Vaccine Alliance, the study was made public before being reviewed by other scientists.

Another group of researchers in India found signs that the drug could be effective as an add-on treatment based on the results of four small studies on COVID-19 patients, according to Gavi.

“But the authors stated clearly that the quality of the evidence was low and that the findings should be treated with caution,” Gavi stated, adding that further trials were needed.

The FDA says it continues to support clinical trials testing new treatments for COVID-19, but ivermectin is not among treatments in its Coronavirus Treatment Acceleration Program, which is designed to get new treatments to patients as quickly as possible while also determining whether the drug is helpful or harmful.

As of August, the FDA had reviewed 460 trials for potential treatments excluding vaccines through its Coronavirus Treatment Acceleration Program, has authorized 11 treatments for emergency use and has approved one treatment for use in COVID-19 cases.

Send questions to “Since You Asked,” Mail Tribune Newsroom, P.O. Box 1108, Medford, OR 97501 or by email to youasked@rosebudmedia.com.