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Five Oregonians hospitalized due to misuse of ivermectin for COVID-19

Between Aug. 1 and Sept. 14, Oregon Poison Center at OHSU managed a total of 25 cases in Oregon
Ivermectin on a table
The medicine ivermectin is being controversially used to treat or prevent COVID-19, which is causing some people to need medical attention. (Getty Images)

Oct. 20 UPDATE: The New England Journal of Medicine published a correspondence letter from Robert Hendrickson, M.D., and colleagues on Oct. 20, 2021, that describes the high volume of ivermectin toxicity cases the Oregon Poison Center received in August 2021. The correspondence is titled Toxic Effects from Ivermectin Use Associated with Prevention and Treatment of Covid-19.

Five Oregonians were recently hospitalized because they consumed a potent antiparasitic drug despite there being no clinical data supporting its use for COVID-19. The Oregon Poison Center strongly recommends the public only use scientifically proven and FDA-approved methods to combat the novel coronavirus.

The Oregon Poison Center  has managed 25 cases involving Oregonians intentionally misusing ivermectin to treat or prevent COVID-19 between Aug. 1 and Sept. 14. Five of those cases involved hospitalization, and two people were so severely ill that they had to be admitted to an intensive care unit. Although the Oregon Poison Center also serves Alaska and Guam, the vast majority of ivermectin cases it has managed this year have come from Oregon.

Head shot of Robert Hendrickson M.D.
Robert Hendrickson, M.D. 

“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, M.D., medical director of the Oregon Poison Center at Oregon Health & Science University and professor of emergency medicine in the OHSU School of Medicine.

“Health care providers can help COVID patients by prescribing treatments that are already carefully tested and approved,” Hendrickson said. “And vaccination, in combination with masking, physical distancing, frequent hand-washing and other measures, continues to be the best way to avoid getting infected.”

The Oregon Poison Center’s recent cases involved a variety of symptoms, including mental confusion, balance issues, low blood pressure and seizure. The patients were in their 20s through their 80s, although most were older than 60. The cases were fairly evenly split between both men and women, and between people attempting to either prevent or treat COVID-19. Some cases involved individuals obtaining a prescription for either human or veterinary forms of the drug.

Both the Food and Drug Administration and Merck, which makes ivermectin for human use, have announced there is no scientific data that supports its use for COVID-19. Neither the FDA nor the National Institutes of Health have endorsed its use for COVID-19, and OHSU doesn’t recommend any use of ivermectin for 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.

Ivermectin is approved to treat some parasites in people and some animals.

Those who experience COVID-19 symptoms or are exposed to COVID-19 are encouraged to contact their primary care provider for assistance, and to only go to an emergency department if they are experiencing severe symptoms and need emergency medical assistance. Oregonians who don’t have a primary care provider or have COVID-19 questions can call the OHSU COVID-19 Connected Care Center hotline: 833-647-8222. Those who take ivermectin for COVID-19 and have symptoms or questions can also call the Oregon Poison Center: 800-222-1222.

If you or a loved one is experiencing a poison emergency, call the Oregon Poison Center at 800-222-1222. A trained health care provider is available 24 hours a day, 7 days a week. The call is free and confidential. Poison prevention education and other poison safety resources are available at https://www.ohsu.edu/oregon-poison-center. Accredited by the American Association of Poison Control Centers, the Oregon Poison Center is a designated regional poison control center for Oregon, Alaska and Guam.

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