BEND, Ore. (AP) — Around two dozen people have contacted the poison center in Oregon after self-medicating against COVID-19 with a drug used to treat parasites, with five becoming hospitalized and two of them winding up in intensive care units, authorities said Friday.
The drug they used was ivermectin, which has no proven use against the coronavirus and is instead approved to treat some parasites in people and some animals.
“COVID-19 is a devastating disease and can be very frightening, but the public does not need to use — nor should it use — unproven and potentially dangerous drugs to fight it,” said Robert Hendrickson, medical director of the Oregon Poison Center at Oregon Health & Science University.
Between Aug. 1 and Sept. 14, the Oregon Poison Center at OHSU managed a total of 25 cases. Five of those cases involved hospitalization, and two people were so severely ill that they had to be admitted to an intensive care unit.
Across the country, calls to poison control centers regarding ivermectin overdoses or exposures has increased five-fold from the pre-pandemic level, according to the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.
Studies suggest that achieving the plasma concentrations necessary for antiviral efficacy would require administration of doses of the drug up to 100-fold higher than those approved for use in humans, the National Institutes of Health said.
The Oregon Poison Center said its recent cases involved people experiencing mental confusion, balance issues, low blood pressure and seizures. The patients were in their 20s through their 80s, with most older than 60, and were attempting to either prevent or treat COVID-19.
Initial lab research indicated ivermectin might be able to treat COVID-19, but when tested in human trials, ivermectin did not decrease symptoms or cure the disease, OHSU said.
The Oregon Poison Center is accredited by the American Association of Poison Control Centers and is the designated regional poison control center for Oregon, Alaska and Guam. The vast majority of recent cases involving ivermectin misuse the Oregon Poison Center has managed occurred in Oregon, the center said.
This version corrects that the vast majority of cases came from Oregon, not all the cases.