Health experts and medical groups are pushing to stamp out the growing use of a decades-old parasite drug to treat COVID-19, warning that it can cause harmful side effects and that there’s little evidence it helps.
With a fourth wave of infections, more Americans are turning to ivermectin, a cheap drug used to kill worms and other parasites in humans and animals.
Federal health officials have seen a surge in prescriptions this summer, accompanied by worrying increases in reported overdoses. The drug was even given to inmates at a jail in northwest Arkansas for COVID-19, despite federal warnings against that use. On Wednesday, podcaster Joe Rogan, who has been dismissive of the COVID-19 vaccine, announced he had tested positive for the virus and was taking the medication.
Ivermectin has been promoted by Republican lawmakers, conservative talk show hosts and some doctors, amplified via social media to millions of Americans who remain resistant to getting vaccinated. It has also been widely used in other countries, including India and Brazil.
This week, the top U.S. professional groups for doctors and pharmacists appealed for an “immediate end” to the drug’s use outside of research.
“We are urging physicians, pharmacists, and other prescribers — trusted healthcare professionals in their communities — to warn patients against the use of ivermectin outside of FDA-approved indications and guidance,” said the American Medical Association and two pharmacist groups.
Large studies are now underway in the U.S. and overseas to determine if the drug has any effect on preventing or blunting COVID-19.
The latest plea follows similar warnings from federal and state regulators who are tracking side effects and hospital admissions tied to the drug.