Over the last several months there have been increasing reports and misleading claims through the media and online (including signage off Manitoba highways) regarding the purported use of the veterinary antiparasitic agent ivermectin in the treatment of COVID-19, similar to previous claims surrounding hydroxychloroquine.
Ivermectin is an essential medication approved by Health Canada for human use only in the treatment of strongyloidiasis (parasitic worm infections). However, ivermectin is primarily used in veterinary medicine for deworming of livestock. As of January 2021, ivermectin has been listed on shortage by Drug Shortages Canada due to increased demand for the drug.
There is no evidence that either formulation of ivermectin (human or veterinary versions) is safe or effective when used for the prevention or treatment of COVID-19. In fact, the veterinary drug version of ivermectin, especially at high doses, can be dangerous to humans and may cause serious health problems. There have been multiple reports of patients in the U.S. being hospitalized after using ivermectin intended for livestock, and some feed stores across Canada are reporting increased sales of the drug. In response to this, Health Canada issued an advisory notice on August 31, 2021, to the public and all healthcare professionals outlining the potential serious health dangers posed.
Manitobans have an expectation that their healthcare providers and team members, comprised of physicians, nurses, and pharmacists, continue to work together to ensure that all health information provided, including all prescribing and dispensing practices, are current, evidence-based, and in the best interest of patient and public safety. The following resources may be helpful to all practitioners in their conversations with the public:
- Prescribing and Dispensing of Drugs to Treat COVID-19 – Tri-College guidance document
- Can existing drugs, like ivermectin, help prevent or treat COVID-19? – Doctors Manitoba
- Ivermectin for preventing and treating COVID‐19 – Cochrane Library
- Drug treatments for covid-19: living systematic review and network meta-analysis – British Medical Journal
- WHO advises that ivermectin only be used to treat COVID-19 within clinical trials – World Health Organization
- Ivermectin in the Treatment and Prevention of COVID-19 – COVID-19 Scientific Advisory Group, Rapid Evidence Report, Alberta Health Services
- Misleading clinical evidence and systematic reviews on ivermectin for COVID-19 – British Medical Journal
- The British Columbia COVID-19 Therapeutics Committee – guidance on the most current research on the use of therapies in the management of COVID-19 – BC Centre for Disease Control
- Why you should not use Ivermectin to treat or prevent Covid-19 – USA Food & Drug Administration
CPhM recognizes and appreciates the extraordinary efforts of all registrants in upholding patient safety and battling misinformation as the pandemic continues.