SALT LAKE CITY — Utah's Poison Control Center has recorded a 4.5 times increase in ivermectin exposures this year compared to 2020, prompting the Utah Department of Health and the Department of Agriculture and Food to warn against using it as a COVID-19 treatment.
"Ivermectin is NOT a COVID-19 drug; there is no data to suggest this drug has any impact on COVID-19 infection. The continued promotion of the drug has led to an increase in people buying veterinary ivermectin and being hospitalized due to side effects of ingesting the drug," the agencies said in a joint statement released Tuesday.
The Utah Department of Health said a patient ingested large doses of ivermectin, which is used primarily to treat parasites in horses and other animals, in an attempt to treat symptoms of COVID-19. The patient was hospitalized with serious health effects, the agency said.
According to the Utah Poison Control Center, 50% of people who called the center received medical help as a result of using ivermectin as a way to treat or prevent the virus.
"I strongly encourage clinical providers to consider the harm they may cause if they provide ivermectin to patients with COVID-19 infection. While there is no data showing it helps with COVID-19 there is very strong data showing it can do harm. I also encourage pharmacists to question any prescriptions for high-dose ivermectin that is inappropriate for their clients," state epidemiologist Dr. Leisha Nolen said in a statement.
The Utah Department of Agriculture warned that veterinary ivermectin is not safe for human consumption (what's used on humans is a much lower dose). The agency warned that ivermectin is not approved by the FDA to treat or prevent COVID-19.
"The recent uptick in reports of ivermectin misuse are concerning. The Utah Department of Agriculture and Food does not endorse the misuse of ivermectin to treat COVID-19 and encourages individuals to consult with a qualified healthcare provider before undergoing any course of treatment," Dr. Dean Taylor, state veterinarian, said in a statement.
Poison specialists are available 24/7 at 1-800-222-1222. For emergencies, call 911.