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Cleveland Doctors Warn Don't Use Livestock Drug Ivermectin for COVID-19

ivermectin tablets
Novikov Aleksey
Ivermectin is used to deworm pets and livestock, and doctors do not recommend taking it to treat COVID-19. Big Dee's Tack and Vet Supplies in Strongsville has seen increased interest in the drug with some purchasing mass quantities.

Cleveland-area physicians are warning that people should talk with their doctors before taking any unapproved medications to treat COVID-19. That includes ivermectin, a medication used to treat parasitic infections in animals, which has recently gained attention because of its increased unofficial use by some as a COVID-19 treatment. 

The American Medical Association (AMA), American Pharmacists Association (APhA), and American Society of Health-System Pharmacists (ASHP) released a statement Monday warning doctors to not prescribe or dispense ivermectin outside of a clinical trial. 

Recently, the drug has gained even more popularity after national podcast host Joe Rogan announced he took ivermectin to treat his COVID-19 infection. 

Big Dee's Tack and Vet Supplies in Strongsville sells ivermectin, and a customer service representative said Thursday that there has been increased interest in the drug. 

"We have a lot of people trying to buy it in mass quantities from us. I don't know per se what everyone's taking it for, but our sales have gone crazy for ivermectin," she said. The representative did not want to disclose her name for this story. 

Some of the people trying to buy it may be regular customers who want to make sure they have enough supply for their livestock, she said. 

Dr. Adarsh Bhimraj, an infectious disease specialist with the Cleveland Clinic, said it's natural for people to want to do anything they can to fight COVID-19, but he hopes they will go to a reputable source of information like their doctor before taking any experimental drugs, and he doesn't recommend anyone take ivermectin at this time. 

"As providers, the first thing I think we should be very cautious about is being judgmental of them," he said. 

There's a reason people are interested in this drug, as it has been given to patients and is currently being tested in clinical trials to see if it does have an impact on COVID-19, Bhimraj said.

"There would not be trials if we didn't think it may work," he said. "With all the evidence that we have to this day, I think we really don't know if ivermectin will be helpful or harmful."

Bhimraj is waiting until the clinical trial findings come back to make a decision about whether the drug is useful in the fight against COVID-19. 

In the early days of the pandemic, doctors were trying many different approaches to try to save lives, and that might have included giving someone experimental drugs like ivermectin, said Dr. Amy Edwards, infectious disease specialist at UH Rainbow Babies and Children's Hospital. 

"In the early days ... when patients were dying and there was nothing we could do, we sometimes did just give them stuff, like Kaletra or ivermectin or hydroxychloroquine, because if something would work to save their lives, great," Dr. Edwards said. "And then people clung to that because there was that hope."

But now, there is more science and data to guide health care best practices. Now, there are more approved medications, like remdesivir, to treat COVID-19. 

The pandemic has left us all searching for more information, and it's important to fact-check sources and ask your doctor before taking medications, Edwards said.
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