Watch Now: Ivermectin Overdoses Low in Illinois, None Reported in McLean County | Health
BLOOMINGTON – Locally speaking, everything is calm on the ivermectin front.
Typically used in animals, the antiparasitic drug has gained notoriety in some circles as a preventative or post-diagnostic treatment against COVID-19.
Supporters of the drug point out that its developers won a Nobel Prize in 2015 for successfully using the drug as a treatment for river blindness and other tropical diseases.
Others say there is not enough evidence via clinical trials and controlled studies to show the compound’s use as an effective treatment or preventative measure for COVID-19.
Supporters often cite a medical study in Egypt that allowed some people with both COVID-19 diagnoses and parasitic infections to take ivermectin; the study author claimed a 90% reduction in deaths for those who took the drug.
But following allegations of plagiarism and false data, the study was pulled from the website that originally published it. The study had not been published in peer-reviewed medical journals.
That hasn’t stopped some people from looking for the drug on their own, as it’s available over the counter at stores like Rural King and Tractor Supply for those looking to give it to animals.
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The trend was enough to cause a 245% increase from July to August in calls to state poison control centers regarding ivermectin overdoses, according to the National Poison Data Centers.
It also prompted an official statement from the Federal Food and Drug Administration urging people not to take large doses of the drug because “animal ivermectin products are very different from those approved for humans.”
“The use of animal ivermectin for the prevention or treatment of COVID-19 in humans is dangerous,” the agency continued.
Forms of ivermectin suitable for human use are available by prescription for intestinal complications associated with worms. A topical form for humans can be used to treat lice or skin conditions such as rosacea.
Side effects of taking too much, whether in humans or animals, include vomiting, diarrhea, seizures, balance problems, coma and death.
Illinois Poison Center spokesperson Danny Chun said the center had only received nine calls from people who said they had used the drug as a treatment for COVID-19.
Whether or not callers overdosed is something the center cannot verify, he added, which is why they refer callers to emergency service afterwards.
“We have no way of diagnosing people over the phone to see if it’s real poisoning – only a hospital or doctor can do this assessment and diagnosis,” Chun said.
Seven of these calls arrived in August, and two in September.
In McLean County, emergency rooms at Carle BroMenn Medical Center in Normal and OSF St. Joseph’s Medical Center in Bloomington did not admit any ivermectin overdose patients.
Dr James Lowe, a Carlock native who became director of the University of Illinois Center for Learning Medicine, said his opinion was that the issue was largely political, as the ivermectin trend continued to grow. produced primarily in states with low vaccination rates.
“If you don’t believe the vaccine works, then maybe you’re going to treat it with these other things,” he told Pantagraph in an interview.
The Front Line COVID-19 Critical Care Alliance, a group of fringe doctors and former media professionals touting the drug’s effectiveness, is at the heart of the campaign for the human use of ivermectin as a COVID treatment.
FLCCA members include some from central Illinois, but none from McLean County. Dr Craig Backs in Springfield said he joined the group, but declined to say whether or not he recommended the drug as a COVID treatment.
Critics of the group say it chooses its evidence or draws conclusions unsupported by evidence.
Testing an idea and seeing what happens has always been part of the scientific method, Lowe said, so the fact that studies are underway regarding the potential use of ivermectin as a COVID treatment in humans is not not so abnormal.
The difference now is that the assumptions are public, the evidence not yet decided by the medical establishment, and some people feel pressured to take matters into their own hands, even if they are misguided.
“This is the messy part of science: we try to create evidence over time and it often takes a long time to build consensus on what we need to do,” Lowe said. “At this point, the evidence leans heavily on the fact that there is no benefit to taking ivermectin. We could be wrong, and that’s what good scientists always say, ‘Hey, we reserve the right to be corrected as more information becomes available, but at this point evidence is lacking. ‘”
Normally, he added, “messy” debates about a drug’s effectiveness or its alternative uses “take place in journals and in scientific meetings with a bunch of nerds.”
“Unfortunately, non-scientists have to work their way through the mess and they don’t like the ugly, then they start to lose faith in it, and a lot of science becomes political as people choose and choose,” he said. said.
While the data does not yet support human use of ivermectin, Lowe said, clinical trials with it and other drugs are ongoing.
“When you’re at the start of the scientific process, it’s never clear, it’s never simple, it’s very devious, and it looks messy and ugly and bad,” Lowe said. “That’s kind of the beauty of it, and we’re going to get to the bottom of it – it’s going to take us a while.”
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