Have questions about ivermectin? The experts at SE Texas have answers.


Ivermectin isn’t the first drug that has raised hopes among those curious or hesitant to vaccinate as a potential treatment for COVID-19, but it is the one that attracts potential patients to farm supplies and pet stores across the country.

The same is true for Southeast Texas, where local Tractor Supply suppliers and feed mills are running out of stocks of veterinary drugs like ivermectin paste for horses or bottles of sheep drink, as those infected or cautious people are trying to find an easy and inexpensive way to combat the virus.

While some doctors in the area are prescribing the human form of the drug that experts overwhelmingly agree could just be a placebo, regional poison control centers are seeing an increase in emergencies of people trying backyard remedies.

The Enterprise reached out to 10 local people for this story who publicly claimed to have taken ivermectin to treat or prevent COVID-19 herself, or to give a prescribed form to family members.

Three of those people returned Enterprise’s demands, and all declined to speak officially.

Medical experts who ask questions about the drug are not surprised that patients keen to take charge of their health are not keen to answer questions about it.

Dr Msonthi Levine, a private-practice primary care physician in Beaumont, said the latest ivermectin obsession is just a symptom of the U.S. medical system that he says doctors face every day.

“There is a long history of people being overwhelmed by so much information and paralyzed with what to do,” Levine said. “If it looks good to us and matches what we’re inclined to believe, we’ll try it. Even if it goes against the research.

Patients continue to ask Levine for prescriptions several times a week, and he said he even wrote it down a few times when it was first suggested as a possible treatment, but now thinks he is clear from peer-reviewed research that there is no legitimate link with its ability to fight the virus.

But, he says, it is as easy to convince a patient that the miracle cure he read on the internet is not the right answer as it is to suggest that he change his diet or take a specific drug that he is on. read bad reviews online.

Ivermectin follows in the footsteps of drugs like hydroxychloroquine that have become popular alternative medicines, but are just a few of the different drugs that researchers or doctors have tested to see if they could have an impact on infections. to COVID-19.

Levine said the difference is that these are just a few of the substances that have been promoted by popular figures in the media, which usually immediately start a wave of demands from patients.

It can be even more difficult to get a patient to trust expert advice, even a doctor they know and trust frequently, when they know a clinic down the street can. easily give him what he wants.

Levine said he has a moral obligation not to prescribe something that medical research has clearly shown would not be of benefit to his patients.

“I’m basically trying to remind them that in my opinion, the peer-reviewed sources that I consult tell me that this has not been sufficiently studied and that it has not been recommended to treat this disease,” Levine said. “If that doesn’t help and could potentially harm, then I’ve taken an oath not to do anything that could be potentially dangerous.”

For every doctor who has decided not to risk giving false hope, there seems to be more and more online networks of people sharing resources to find doctors or services that will connect them to ivermectin. Others simply opt for animal varieties that are readily available over the counter or online.

Unfortunately, these home treatments have resulted in a rash of poisoning cases as people have accidentally overdosed on livestock medicine weighing thousands of pounds.

Mark Winter, director of the Southeast Texas Poison Center and professor of pharmacology at the University of Texas Medical Branch School of Medicine, said the volume of ivermectin-related case calls recently increased by 115% , and that daily call volumes are well above average.

Some of those calls are from parents whose children have swallowed tubes of easily opened fruit-flavored paste intended for horses, but most are from self-medicated adults.

“The difficult part is differentiating their symptoms from those of COVID-19, if they are infected,” Winter said. “We can’t do it over the phone, and many hospitals are too overwhelmed to take them easily. It is a difficult situation.

But the fact that veterinary ivermectin can cause poisoning is not surprising to experts. Especially when you consider the forms they fill out and the advice people get online.

Usually, a dose of ivermectin formulated for humans is given to treat serious parasitic infections like ‘river blindness’, named for the mass of worms that can breed in people’s eyes after drinking alcohol. infected water.

Winter said a six-gram tube of horse paste can hold up to 30 equivalent doses and can be difficult to divide accurately.

To make matters worse, he found while researching information to present to doctors in Texas that many websites were telling people to take between one dose for two days or two doses for five days. Some even promise to reverse the lasting effects of COVID-19 infections by taking large doses of the drug.

When poisoned callers call the line, the first sign is usually abdominal pain, nausea, vomiting, or diarrhea. More serious symptoms can include chest pain, a sign of neurological problems, and liver problems.

Advice from poison control centers may save the lives of people who have overdosed, but Winter said experts are equally sensitive to the kind of doubt and mistrust doctors face.

“Usually the first thing we hear on a call is ‘my kid just ate this stuff and I read on the internet that he was going to die’,” he said. “When we tell them that their child will be okay if they follow these steps, they almost always ask if we are sure. “

While doctors can legally prescribe ivermectin to patients for purposes other than treating parasites, some could face repercussions in certain circumstances. A doctor recently gained notoriety after it was reported that he was prescribing the drug to inmates at an Arkansas prison.

The state medical commission confirmed Friday that he had opened an investigation into the actions of the doctor.

Some doctors, like the one in Arkansas, had justified the use of human forms of pest control by citing limited trial data from the National Institutes of Health. The agency concluded that there were signs that ivermectin could eliminate cultures of COVID-19 in test tubes.

Winter said that at first glance, this development may make ivermectin seem like a perfectly acceptable treatment, but the same result has been found with household cleaners like bleach.

“The best prevention at this point is to prevent infection, which means getting vaccinations and wearing a mask,” Winter said.

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