It seems that the days of drinking bleach to treat or prevent covid-19, a dangerous and bogus practice thrust into our lives after former President Donald Trump’s ramblings about injecting disinfectants, are not over. However, this time the hot faux cure on the market is a drug called ivermectin, which is used in animals to treat heartworm disease and internal and external parasites.
The misguided idea of using ivermectin to treat or prevent covid-19 isn’t new, but it’s apparently been gaining steam. On Friday, the drug raised alarm bells in Mississippi after the state’s health department warned health professionals to report any cases of humans ingesting prescribed or livestock formulations of ivermectin. The state health department said that at least 70% of recent calls to the Mississippi Poison Control Center had been related to this issue.
On Saturday, the Food and Drug Administration weighed in on the use of ivermectin as a treatment not approved by the agency. Its exasperation was clear.
“You are not a horse. You are not a cow. Seriously, y’all. Stop it,” the FDA tweeted along with two links to articles titled “Why You Should Not Use Ivermectin to Treat or Prevent COVID-19” and “FAQ: COVID-19 and Ivermectin Intended for Animals.”
In Mississippi, the state health department stated that 85% of the people who called regarding ivermectin had mild issues. Nonetheless, officials told one person to seek more medical help because of the amount of ivermectin they had supposedly taken. According to the FDA, animal drugs are often highly concentrated because they are used to treat large animals, such as horses and cows. These animals can weigh a ton (2,000 pounds or 907 kilograms) more than humans do.
Ivermectin toxicity can cause symptoms including rash, nausea, vomiting, abdominal pain, neurologic side effects, and potentially severe hepatitis requiring hospitalization.
There are some forms of ivermectin approved by the FDA for human use. Ivermectin is used to treat two conditions caused by parasitic worms: intestinal strongyloidiasis and onchocerciasis. There are also topical forms of ivermectin used to treat external parasites on people like head lice and skin conditions like rosacea. These forms of ivermectin are different from the ones given to animals.
Even the forms of ivermectin approved for human use are not without risks. Ivermectin can interfere with other medications such as blood thinners, the FDA said. In addition, overdosing on ivermectin can cause nausea, vomiting, diarrhea, low blood pressure, itching, hives, dizziness, balance problems, seizures, coma, and death.
The FDA affirms that it has not reviewed data that supports using ivermectin to treat or prevent covid-19, although there is initial research being carried out at the moment. It should be noted that this is just research, which doesn’t give ivermectin the green light.
“Taking a drug for an unapproved use can be very dangerous. This is true of ivermectin, too,” the FDA stated in a consumer update. “There’s a lot of misinformation around, and you may have heard that it’s okay to take large doses of ivermectin. That is wrong.”
Clarification: A previous version of this article said that Donald Trump “promoted” “drinking bleach” as a treatment for covid-19. The former president instead suggested that disinfectants could be “injected” before later clarifying, “It wouldn’t be through injections, almost a cleaning and sterilization of an area. Maybe it works, maybe it doesn’t work, but it certainly has a big effect if it’s on a stationary object.” Regardless, a CDC survey found that people were drinking or gargling bleach solutions, along with other dangerous activities, after Trump’s comments.