The number of calls the Washington Poison Center has received regarding the drug ivermectin has tripled in the past year, The Seattle Times reported on Tuesday.
Scott Phillips, medical director for the Washington Poison Center, told the Times that his agency has seen a threefold increase in calls relating to ivermectin since last year, attributing the rise to misinformation about the drug's effects on COVID-19.
According to Phillips, most calls were inquiring about the safety of the drug, which is used to treat parasites and certain skin conditions in animals and less often in humans. However, the center has also received calls from individuals who were recently hospitalized or were experiencing symptoms of poisoning, Phillips said.
Ivermectin has been in high demand, the Times noted, with many people baselessly claiming that it can be used to treat COVID-19. The drug is approved for use in humans in safe doses to treat certain conditions. However, reports have come out of people ingesting doses formulated for large livestock animals such as horses and cows.
A spokesperson for the Washington Medical Commission told the Times that the organization has so far received eight complaints about ivermectin that are currently under investigation.
The Food and Drug Administration (FDA) released an advisory earlier this month stating that there is no evidence to suggest ivermectin is effective against COVID-19 and that ingesting large amounts of the drug or sourcing it from anywhere other than a legitimate source such as a pharmacy is dangerous.
The doses of ivermectin given to animals are often significantly higher than those approved for treatment in humans.
"Such high doses can be highly toxic in humans. Moreover, the FDA reviews drugs not just for safety and effectiveness of the active ingredients, but also for the inactive ingredients. Many inactive ingredients found in products for animals aren’t evaluated for use in people," the FDA said.
"In some cases, we don’t know how those inactive ingredients will affect how ivermectin is absorbed in the human body," it added.