HAP's Latest News

FDA Warns Against Livestock Medication as COVID-19 Treatment

What you need to know about latest public health advisory

August 30, 2021

The U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) has issued a public health advisory about the concerning rise in calls to poison control centers related to an anti-parasite medication being used off-label to treat COVID-19.

Last week, the FDA issued an advisory about a rapid increase in ivermectin prescriptions and calls to national poison control centers associated with the use of products containing the medication. The agency stressed that ivermectin has not been approved to treat COVID-19, and is authorized in specific doses for treatment of parasitic worms, head lice, and skin conditions like rosacea. In addition, therapies for animals containing ivermectin should not be used in humans, the agency stressed.

“Ivermectin is not authorized or approved by FDA for prevention or treatment of COVID-19,” the FDA said in its advisory. “The National Institutes of Health’s COVID-19 Treatment Guidelines Panel has also determined that there are currently insufficient data to recommend ivermectin for treatment of COVID-19.”

The FDA advisory and public health officials across the country are urging people to avoid the unproven treatment for COVID-19 amid a flurry of social media attention.

Here’s what you need to know about the FDA advisory:

  • About ivermectin:  The drug has been approved to treat people with intestinal strongyloidiasis and onchocerciasis, which are caused by parasitic worms. Some forms of the drug are used in animals to prevent heartworm disease and certain internal and external parasites
  • A clear warning:  Ivermectin has not been proven as a way to prevent or treat COVID-19. Patients should not swallow topical ivermectin products or ingest veterinary ivermectin products
  • Increasing prescriptions:  There were more than 88,000 outpatient ivermectin prescriptions during the week ending August 13, a 24-fold increase from the pre-pandemic baseline. Calls to poison control centers due to the medication increased five-fold during July compared to baseline levels
  • Overdose effects:  Overdose effects from the medication can include gastrointestinal symptoms. Overdoses can be associated with hypotension and neurologic effects such as decreased consciousness, confusion, hallucinations, seizures, coma, and death
  • Concerns:  Veterinary medication is often highly concentrated for use in large animals and can be highly toxic to humans 

“Taking a drug for an unapproved use can be very dangerous. This is true of ivermectin, too,” the FDA said in a statement. “There’s a lot of misinformation around, and you may have heard that it’s okay to take large doses of ivermectin. That is wrong.” 

Seek immediate medical attention or call the poison control center hotline at (800) 222-1222 if you have taken ivermectin or a product that contains ivermectin and are experiencing symptoms, the FDA said.

HAP strongly encourages everyone who has questions about ivermectin to talk with their health care provider for more information.

HAP also encourages everyone who is eligible to receive the COVID-19 vaccine. The vaccines are our most effective tool to prevent severe cases of the virus, including the Delta variant.

Learn more about the COVID-19 vaccines online.