HEALTH ALERT: Increased Ivermectin Exposure Calls to Texas Poison Centers and Potential Toxicity

August 26, 2021


Background

The Texas Department of State Health Services (DSHS) is issuing this health advisory regarding the improper use of ivermectin to treat or prevent COVID-19 infection by the public. 

In August 2021, the Texas Poison Center Network (TPCN) experienced a more than 150 percent increase in the number of calls received about ivermectin exposures compared with the previous month. From Jan. 1 to Aug. 24, the TPCN received a total of 159 Ivermectin exposure calls, more than triple the 48 calls received in all of 2020. The largest number (64) occurred in August. More than half of the 2021 calls (87, 55%) were potential Ivermectin exposure taken in an attempt to treat or prevent COVID-19. Most of the calls were about people experiencing mild symptoms, but for 52 (33%), the patient was either on the way to a health care facility or was referred to a health care facility, suggesting more severe effects.

Ivermectin

Ivermectin is an antiparasitic drug that is approved by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) for topical treatment of headlice and some skin conditions such as rosacea. It is also approved to treat parasitic worms (intestinal strongyloidiasis, onchocerciasis and helminthiases) and scabies. Some forms can be used to treat parasites in animals but are different than the forms for people and should only be used in animals.

Ivermectin is not an anti-viral drug that can treat viral illnesses such as COVID-19. The FDA has not approved ivermectin for treating or preventing COVID-19. Large doses of ivermectin can cause serious harm. 

Adverse Health Effects

The adverse effects of taking ivermectin may include skin rash, pruritis (itch), nausea, diarrhea, stomach pain, facial or limb swelling. Neurological effects such as dizziness, confusion and seizures have also been documented. Moreover, ivermectin can interact with other medications, such as blood thinners, leading to vomiting, low blood pressure, allergic reactions, dizziness, problems with balance, seizures, coma and even death.

Recommendations for the Public

  • People should take ivermectin only when prescribed by their healthcare provider and take it exactly as prescribed.
  • There are approved uses for ivermectin in both animals and people. Never use medications intended for animals on yourself. Ivermectin preparations for animals are very different from those approved for humans and can be highly toxic in humans. 
  • Store ivermectin away from children. Commonly used ivermectin formulations for horses and other animals are apple flavored and taste good to children.
  • If you are experiencing any adverse health effects or have questions or concerns about exposure to ivermectin, please contact your healthcare provider or the Texas Poison Center Network at 1-800-222-1222.

Contact Information

For questions about this health advisory please contact:

DSHS Environmental Surveillance and Toxicology Branch
512-776-7268
epitox@dshs.texas.gov

Additional Resources:


Last updated August 31, 2021