Don’t use ivermectin for COVID-19, Health Canada warns as poison control calls increase

Click to play video: 'Despite health warnings, horse medicine being purchased to treat COVID-19'
Despite health warnings, horse medicine being purchased to treat COVID-19
Despite warnings of significant toxicity and side effect, ivermectin, a veterinary medicine used to treat worms in horses and sheep, is being purchased as a COVID-19 treatment. – Sep 1, 2021

Health Canada is warning Canadians against using ivermectin to treat or prevent COVID-19, saying that calls to poison control centres about the drug have increased over the summer.

Ivermectin, an antiparasitic medication, is authorized by Health Canada to treat worm infections, not viruses like the one that causes COVID-19.

“There is no evidence that ivermectin works to prevent or treat COVID-19, and it is not authorized for this use,” Health Canada wrote in a press release.

Recently, some veterinary medicine facilities have reported that people were also taking a formulation of the drug intended for livestock.

If you are taking ivermectin to prevent or treat COVID-19, you should stop immediately and safely discard any remaining medication by returning it to the vendor or following municipal hazardous waste guidelines, Health Canada wrote. If you are experiencing side effects after having taken it for that purpose, you should call poison control.

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Taking drugs without being monitored by a medical professional puts people at risk of harmful side effects, the department wrote, especially when it comes to veterinary products.

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“Canadians should never consume health products intended for animals because of potential serious health risks, including seizures, coma and even death.”

Click to play video: 'Saskatoon pharmacist warning about use of Ivermectin to treat COVID-19'
Saskatoon pharmacist warning about use of Ivermectin to treat COVID-19

Health Canada was also made aware that ivermectin was being marketed in Canada to treat and prevent COVID-19.

“It is illegal in Canada to sell or advertise a drug in a false, misleading or deceptive manner,” it wrote in a press release.

The department said it contacted the advertisers and directed them to remove the advertisements.

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Health Canada previously warned against using the drug for COVID-19 in August.

In September, B.C.’s Drug and Poison Information Centre told Global News it has had nine cases related to people taking veterinary-grade ivermectin to prevent or treat COVID-19 in the last six months, when it had received zero calls about the drug over the last two years. None of these calls ended in a serious adverse outcome, the agency said.

“Ivermectin toxicity can lead to abdominal pain, nausea, vomiting, diarrhea, headache, dizziness, low blood pressure, seizures, coma, respiratory failure, and death,” the agency wrote in a statement.

Alberta Health Services has also issued warnings about the drug.

Dr. Michael Chatenay, a general and breast cancer surgeon in Edmonton, previously told Global News that his team has had patients asking about the drug, which he calls an “unproven therapy” for COVID-19.

“There may be some studies out there that show a benefit, but those studies are flawed,” he said. “If you really look at this carefully, there really is no evidence that this provides benefit. And there’s actually quite a bit of evidence that it may, in fact, harm you, especially if you’re taking a veterinary supply that people are seeking (from) veterinary supply stores. So until there is evidence that this works, we can’t in good conscience prescribe it.”


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