AMA Calls for End to Ivermectin Use for COVID Amid Spike in Use

Megan Brooks

September 02, 2021

Editor's note: Find the latest COVID-19 news and guidance in Medscape's Coronavirus Resource Center.

In a joint statement, the American Medical Association (AMA), American Pharmacists Association (APhA), and American Society of Health-System Pharmacists (ASHP) call for an "immediate" end to the use of the anthelmintic medication ivermectin (Stromectol) to prevent or treat COVID-19 outside of a clinical trial.

"Use of ivermectin for the prevention and treatment of COVID-19 has been demonstrated to be harmful to patients," the organizations collectively said in a statement issued yesterday.

"We are alarmed by reports that outpatient prescribing for and dispensing of ivermectin have increased 24-fold since before the pandemic and increased exponentially over the past few months," they said.

Ivermectin is an anti-parasitic drug that is used to treat river blindness and intestinal roundworm infection in humans and to de-worm pets and livestock. Lotions and creams containing ivermectin are also used to treat head lice and rosacea.

Medical Consensus

Ivermectin is not authorized or approved to prevent or treat COVID-19.

But that hasn't stopped people from asking for it and some doctors from prescribing it. 

Prescriptions for the drug have spiked during the pandemic, and cases of ivermectin overdose and misuse are also on the rise, causing the US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention to issue an alert to medical professionals..

Data show that calls to poison control centers as a result of ivermectin use have increased fivefold from their pre-pandemic baseline.

Side effects of using ivermectin can include nausea and vomiting. Overdoses of ivermectin can lead to hypotension and neurologic effects such as decreased consciousness, confusion, hallucinations, seizures, coma, and death.

Therefore, the AMA, APhA and ASHP call for "an immediate end to the prescribing, dispensing, and use of ivermectin for the prevention and treatment of COVID-19 outside of a clinical trial."

The National Institutes of Health, World Health Organization, and Merck, which makes ivermectin, have all stated that there is insufficient evidence to support the use of ivermectin to treat COVID-19.

The Infectious Diseases Society of America guidelines on the treatment and management of patients with COVID-19 also recommend against the use of ivermectin outside of a clinical trial.

The US Food and Drug Administration has also warned against using ivermectin to treat or prevent COVID-19. The AMA, APhA and ASHP urge "physicians, pharmacists, and other prescribers — trusted healthcare professionals in their communities — to warn patients against the use of ivermectin outside of FDA-approved indications and guidance, whether intended for use in humans or animals, as well as purchasing ivermectin from online stores."

"The most effective ways to limit the spread of COVID-19," the groups stressed, "are to get vaccinated, wear a face mask, stay at least 6 feet from others in public places, wash hands frequently, and avoid large crowds of people. Our organizations strongly urge eligible unvaccinated individuals to get vaccinated."

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