COLORADO SPRINGS — There is a growing list of medical professionals warning about Ivermectin, a drug some think is a safe alternative for treating COVID-19, leading Chief of Emergency Medicine, Southern Region UCHealth, George Hertner, to issue a stern warning to citizens.
"It's not an antiviral drug," Hertner said. "It's not designed or meant to be treated for COVID-19." Long before becoming a doctor, Hertner was very familiar with Ivermectin.
"I grew up on a farm. I grew up giving animals Ivermectin to remove worms from their intestinal tract," he explained. "You give this drug to pigs; you give this drug to sheep."
You can get forms of the drug intended for livestock at farm and ranch stores as well as internet suppliers. Yet, it does have a history of being used on people, but just for killing parasites like lice and ringworm.
There is a theory going around, especially on social media, that it helps fight COVID-19 after someone gets sick. However, Hertner claims these notions couldn't be further from the truth.
"It's not the right time or situation to prescribe it,” Dr. Hertner said. He is among a majority of medical professionals telling patients it is not an appropriate treatment. "I do see patient complaints about this and dissatisfied patients about this."
The Food and Drug Administration (FDA) has a dedicated web page to warnings about Ivermectin. The American Medical Association (AMA) also cautions against using if for COVID-19 treatment. Yet, the most telling warnings come from the drug's manufacture, Merck. Merck has released a statement in reference to Ivermectin saying: “There is no meaningful evidence of… clinical efficacy in treating COVID-19... There is a concerning lack of safety data.”
Despite these warnings, there is still a small number of doctors across the country prescribing the drug that is unproven for COVID treatment. It also appears some people are buying the livestock version of the drug and self-medicating.
"Just think about it,” Dr. Hertner said. “You're going to a livestock store, getting something off the shelf that is built to go into say a 2,000-pound animal and you're trying to figure out how much you should give yourself." He knows of patients who have taken Ivermectin, then end up going to the Emergency Department. It is a challenge for doctors to treat, because symptoms can be similar to symptoms of COVID-19 infection.
"These are desperate times, people are worried, people are scared,” Hertner said. The patients he has encountered asking about Ivermectin are not vaccinated. He sees a contradiction of someone wanting an unproven, potentially unsafe treatment as a way of avoiding vaccines that have gone through extensive studies to prove they are safe.