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FDA warns against using head lice drug ivermectin to treat coronavirus

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The Food and Drug Administration is warning Americans against using ivermectin, a drug that kills parasites, to treat COVID-19. 

“Taking large doses of this drug is dangerous and can cause serious harm,” the FDA said Friday. 

Ivermectin is used to treat head lice and some skin conditions like rosacea in humans, and is used to treat internal and external parasitic infections in animals. 

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Some researchers have touted ivermectin as a potential treatment for COVID-19 throughout the pandemic, but the jury is still out on whether it is an effective treatment. 

The National Institutes of Health explains that “ivermectin docking may interfere with the attachment of the severe acute respiratory syndrome coronavirus 2 (SARS-CoV-2) spike protein to the human cell membrane.”

Australian researchers found in June that ivermectin inhibited the replication of SARS-CoV-2 in a petri dish, but this effect has not been replicated in actual humans. 

“Despite this in vitro activity, no clinical trials have reported a clinical benefit for ivermectin in patients with these viruses,” the NIH explains. 

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Despite that, Dr. Pierre Kory, a pulmonary and critical care specialist at Aurora St Luke’s Medical Center in Milwaukee, testified before the Senate in December that ivermectin is a “wonder drug” with antiviral and anti-inflammatory properties. 

More recently, Colombian researchers found this month that the duration of COVID-19 symptoms was not significantly different for patients who received a 5-day treatment of ivermectin compares to patients who received a placebo. 

While scientists continue to study its effects, the FDA recommends against trying it out due to potential negative side effects. 

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“Even the levels of ivermectin for approved uses can interact with other medications, like blood-thinners,” the FDA explains.

“You can also overdose on ivermectin, which can cause nausea, vomiting, diarrhea, hypotension (low blood pressure), allergic reactions (itching and hives), dizziness, ataxia (problems with balance), seizures, coma and even death.”

The Associated Press contributed to this report. 

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