Australia’s chief medical officer has pleaded with citizens not to self-medicate with Ivermectin in an attempt to treat COVID-19, following a worrying spike in illegal imports and a Sydney man overdosing on the horse worming drug.
Authorities warn use of the drug can be associated with severe diarrhoea and vomiting.
“Absolutely and categorically, please do not take unproven medicines,” Professor Paul Kelly said.
But federal MP Craig Kelly, one of the nation’s biggest spruikers of the unproven COVID treatment, has refused to back down on his support and revealed he is currently taking Ivermectin as a “prophylaxis” in attempts to avoid the virus.
What is Ivermectin?
Ivermectin, a drug which has uses in treating parasites and lice, has been held up in some corners of the internet as a potential COVID treatment – as a prevention and cure.
It has some uses for humans, and is administered as a tablet, but is also widely used for livestock deworming and given in the form of an injection, paste or “drench”.
Some fringe medical identities have pointed to it having some benefits in the treatment of COVID, but official medical bodies have ruled out using it and warned it could have damaging side effects.
One major study on the drug, claiming to show it had COVID benefits, was recently withdrawn over “ethical concerns”.
There has been a surge of interest in the drug in the United States and across the world in recent weeks, fuelled by anti-vaccine, anti-lockdown and right-wing groups.
Far-right commentator Milo Yiannopoulos claimed he had taken the drug after contracting COVID while Joe Rogan – host of one of the world’s biggest podcasts – told fans on Thursday he too had used the drug to treat his virus infection.
Medical experts warn against use
America’s Food and Drug Administration and Australia’s Therapeutic Goods Administration have warned strongly against its use.
The FDA noted a “sharp spike in reports” of people presenting at poison control centres after taking Ivermectin.
“You are not a horse. You are not a cow. Seriously, y’all. Stop it”, the FDA tweeted.
The TGA warned Australians against trying to import the drug.
“Ivermectin is a prescription medicine that is not approved in Australia (or in other OECD countries) to prevent or treat COVID-19 disease, and should not be imported for this indication,” the medical regulator said last week.
“The TGA strongly discourages self-medication and self-dosing with Ivermectin for COVID-19 as it may be dangerous to your health. There is insufficient evidence to validate the use of Ivermectin in patients with COVID-19.”
Even Merck, a pharmaceutical company that makes Ivermectin, warned there was “no scientific basis” to use it against COVID.
The company warned of potential side effects, such as muscle pain, constipation, diarrhoea, vomiting, nausea, vertigo, tremors, rashes, drowsiness and hives.
But further alarm bells were raised when NSW’s Western Sydney Local Health District confirmed a man had been admitted to hospital after an “overdose” of Ivermectin.
Westmead Hospital toxicologist, Associate Professor Naren Gunja, said a man had taken an overdose of Ivermectin after contracting COVID.
He also said the hospital had admitted numerous COVID patients who had tried to self-medicate with “dangerous substances including hydroxychloroquine, disinfectants, bleach and alcohols”.
“There’s no evidence to support the use of Ivermectin to treat COVID-19. Don’t look for magic cures online, and don’t rely on what’s being peddled on the internet, because none of them work,” Professor Gunja said.
‘It is ineffective’
Australia’s chief medical officer, Professor Paul Kelly, has repeatedly warned people not to seek Ivermectin or hydroxychloroquine, which had been spruiked by former US President Donald Trump.
On Thursday, he again pleaded with people not to self-administer Ivermectin.
“There are many trials that have been done on Ivermectin and not a single one of them have shown [it] to be effective,” Professor Kelly said.
“It is ineffective and not safe.”
But the federal MP for Hughes, Craig Kelly, who is no relation to the professor, said the overdose case did not change his stance on Ivermectin.
Indeed, Mr Kelly told The New Daily he had found a doctor and pharmacist in Australia who prescribed Ivermectin to him for COVID.
He also claimed to be taking the drug regularly, as a “prophylaxis” in an attempt to ward off COVID.
“The man had an overdose of Ivermectin. If you take an overdose of panadol, you’ll end up in hospital,” Mr Kelly said on Thursday.
“I’ve got a prescription for Ivermectin as a prophylaxis … prescribed by a doctor in Australia, fulfilled by a chemist in Sydney.”
Mr Kelly recently said he had not yet been vaccinated against COVID, but told TND he would plan to use Ivermectin if he did contract the virus.
He did not respond to questions on how often he was currently taking the drug, or in what form.
He claimed the drug had been “politicised” and slammed Professor Kelly as “incompetent” for advising against it.
Mr Kelly also accused Merck of “hypocrisy”.
He claimed the company had only advised against people using Ivermectin because it was easy to manufacture off-label and would therefore not be profitable for Merck.