Exclusive: Over 3 weeks, 17 people called state’s poison control center after taking ivermectin, records show

Published: Aug. 27, 2021 at 9:16 PM CDT
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JACKSON, Miss. (WLBT) - Call logs obtained by 3 On Your Side reveal 17 people called the Mississippi Poison Control Center after taking ivermectin over the first twenty-three days of August.

Additionally, 6 people called the service for information on the drug, and one caller did so to report an animal exposure.

The logs, part of the national Toxic Exposure Surveillance System provided to WLBT through a public records request, listed 1,282 exposures from August 1 through 23.

The report did not specifically list the exposures as “ivermectin,” instead categorizing them as “other” antihelmintics, which includes ivermectin.

However, a statement from the Mississippi Poison Control Center confirms exposures and calls from ivermectin made up nearly 2 percent of all calls, which exactly matches the data found under “other” antihelmintics.

Dr. Nelson Atehortua, assistant professor of public health at Jackson State University, said even that small percentage is alarming.

“When we’re having these increasing calls, whatever the number is, that’s a source of concern, because we shouldn’t have any calls related to that other than an accidental poisoning,” Atehortua said.

The Mississippi State Department of Health clarified Wednesday that 70 percent of calls related to ivermectin this month were not a percentage of all calls as the agency previously reported, but rather what percentage of ivermectin calls applied to the animal formulation, which is far more concentrated than the prescription version for humans.

“The animal formulations may be a different concentration of that drug, or the carriers that go with it. So that right there’s more than just ivermectin in that in those products. And so the carriers may be different, and that might be the carrier that’s the dangerous part of it as well,” said Dr. David Smith, a veterinarian and epidemiologist who also teaches at Mississippi State’s College of Veterinary Medicine.

Atehortua said researchers found that in vitro, ivermectin did work to reduce inflammatory effects of COVID-19, but the dosage required would almost certainly harm people.

“The concentration needed in the lab to have that effect, for a person to take it, the doses were very high, and we’re very close to the toxic amount, or the amount that will cause toxicity and can kill a person.”

Atehortua says one area where hundreds of thousands are embracing ivermectin, less concentrated version — South America — still became a huge hot spot for COVID-19 despite those treatments.

August’s partial total of 17 exposures from ivermectin use represent a huge jump over July, when only 3 callers reported exposure to the drug.

Smith said he’s concerned most with misinformation surrounding the animal version’s use, including whether veterinarians themselves are helping get this drug into someone’s hands.

“Many of the rules about prescribing for animals are much more strict than what there are for people,” Smith said. “Even using some products in a manner that’s not on the label is is not allowed for veterinarians. And absolutely, they cannot prescribe any drug for any purpose for people.”

Bottom line: Smith says anybody who’s thinking about using ivermectin for any purpose other than its intended one — as an anti-parasitic as approved by the FDA — needs to talk to a doctor first.

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