Lauren Dempsey, MS in Biomedicine and Law, RN, FISM News
What is the truth about ivermectin? If you’ve been watching the news lately, you’ve heard that it is medication that is dangerous for human consumption, is meant as a horse dewormer, and hospitals are overwhelmed with overdoses.
Recently, Joe Rogan received backlash after being prescribed ivermectin. Many in the media also criticize the use of such a “dangerous medication” as a treatment for COVID-19. But is there actually cause for alarm?
Ivermectin was first approved for human use in 1996, but had been in use to treat parasitic infections since 1978 before it was approved for veterinary use and has treated millions of people worldwide. Veterinary products are very different than what is prescribed for human usage, and often times animal doses are highly concentrated and potentially poisonous.
The WHO has stated that ivermectin is safe and effective, even including it on its List of Essential Medicines. In 2015 the researchers who developed ivermectin won a Nobel Prize in medicine. Decades of research and use show that ivermectin is a safe and effective treatment for humans and has had a positive impact on human health worldwide, especially in respect to treating parasitic infections.
The current stance from the FDA and CDC is that ivermectin is not approved as a COVID-19 treatment, but trials are underway to evaluate it as treatment option. However, this seems to be the point in which many are confused. Is this a safe drug meant for human use or a dangerous veterinary drug approved to treat infections in horses? To understand this, we must consider what off-label use means when doctors prescribe medications to patients.
Medications are FDA approved for a clinical indication after trials show that the drug is safe and effective. This approval does not mean a drug is risk free, it simply means that the FDA has looked at the data and determined that there is significant benefits that the drug can provide patients. Once a medication is approved, a physician or healthcare provider can prescribe a drug for an unapproved or off-label use as necessary in providing treatment.
Many common medications are used for off-label use. ACE inhibitor are used to treat high blood pressure, however it can also be used to treat migraines based on the mechanism of action. The same can be said for anticonvulsants which can be used to treat mood disorders. Metformin is used to treat diabetes, however it has also been shown as an effective treatment for polycystic ovary syndrome. This is not uncommon or even illegal. In fact 10-20% of all prescriptions written are off-label.
Ivermectin may not be FDA approved for viral infections such as COVID-19, but it has been frequently used and well tolerated in humans for decades. Numerous studies, including one ordered by the WHO, have shown that the use of ivermectin is an effective prophylaxis in early treatment, but is effective in all stages of the disease, and can reduce death by 74%. Current research indicates that ivermectin inhibits viral replication, including COVID-19 replication and prevents the virus from binding to host cells, it also acts as an anti-inflammatory, and reduces viral load.
In light of this, it is false and misleading to universally declare that the drug is a dewormer for animals when it has been prescribed for humans for decades.