'Misinformation can be deadly': Doctors say Ivermectin does not work to treat COVID-19

A bill proposed in the New Hampshire Legislature, HB 1022, would require Ivermectin be available on standing order at pharmacies without a prescription. The bill is currently in committee having only been introduced on Jan. 5.
A bill proposed in the New Hampshire Legislature, HB 1022, would require Ivermectin be available on standing order at pharmacies without a prescription. The bill is currently in committee having only been introduced on Jan. 5.

Local doctors are astounded at how readily some people believe Ivermectin, a medicine that targets parasites, not viruses, will cure COVID-19 despite scientific evidence to the contrary and strong warnings from medical professionals. Now a bill in the New Hampshire Legislature would make it available at the state's pharmacies without a prescription.

Ivermectin is a legitimate medication that works well for its intended uses. Sara Tolliday, a pharmacist at Wentworth-Douglass Hospital in Dover, said people call to ask about Ivermectin and she advises against taking it..

"Ivermectin is an antiparasitic, not an antiviral medication," Tolliday said. "It is really useful in people for things like worms, rosacea, and scabies. It is used in horses, too. It is the veterinary grade horse medicine that a lot of people are seeking out. That is highly concentrated and you can overdose on it. It can also cause diarrhea, rash, tachycardia and can lower your blood pressure. It can interact with blood thinners and cause bleeding in people using it. Ivermectin is not FDA approved for use in COVID-19, and I would never recommend it."

More: Inside the COVID care at Wentworth-Douglass Hospital in New Hampshire

A legislative hearing was held on Jan. 18 on HB 1022. The bill asks that Ivermectin be available on standing order at pharmacies without a prescription. The bill is currently in committee having been introduced on Jan. 5.

Dr. Neil Meehan
Dr. Neil Meehan

Dr. Neil Meehan, chief physician executive and an emergency room doctor at Exeter Hospital, testified against the bill at the hearing.

"Ivermectin is a drug that has been approved by the FDA as an anti-parasitic for certain infections including scabies and round worm infections such as Strongyloides (River Blindness)," Meehan said in his testimony. The most recent evidence from several studies has shown Ivermectin to be ineffective for the treatment or prevention of COVID-19. While there were some studies that showed Ivermectin to be effective at killing the COVID-19 virus in vitro (outside of the body) in a laboratory, there has not been substantial or reliable clinical evidence that Ivermectin is an effective antiviral medication once given to humans."

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Meehan included warnings about the danger and toxicity of human consumption of Ivermectin from the American Medical Association, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, and the National Institute of Health

"Pushing for greater access to Ivermectin via a standing order at pharmacies is a potentially dangerous distraction that is unjustifiable with science that will encourage patients to spend hard-earned money on a treatment that will not help and may put them at risk," Meehan said at the hearing.

Meehan said he sees patients in the emergency room who ask for Ivermectin, particularly those who come in very sick with COVID-19. The other side of this, he said, is that poison control lines are saying that almost 100% of their toxicity calls right now are about Ivermectin.

The problem, said Meehan, is that in general Ivermectin is a fairly safe medication, but people are seeking the veterinary dose, used for horses.

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"They are taking harmful doses," he said. "It can result in seizures, dizziness, uncontrolled body movements and other harmful effects."

Dr. Marc Grossman, EMS director for the region's HCA hospitals — Frisbie, Portsmouth Regional and Parkland — said he is not sure how Ivermectin entered COVID folklore.

"It is an anti-parasitic," he said. "Third World countries use it very effectively for worms. It is a really good drug and the persons who created it won a Nobel Prize (William C. Campbell and Satoshi Ōmura, in 2015). In India, parasites are endemic so they give it to everyone."

Grossman said an early study, which seemed to indicate Ivermectin lessened the severity of COVID-19 symptoms and might be a cure, was discredited and the drug was shown to have no benefit.

"People grab onto things," Grossman said. "Misinformation can be deadly. I know of a patient who refused to be vaccinated and got COVID. He started a course of Ivermectin and hydroxychloroquine and went into renal failure. COVID is a potentially deadly medical condition that has turned political for no reason I can see."

As for HB 1022, Grossman said doctors do not support the legislative effort, adding there is now an epidemic of the unvaccinated and addressing that is a better avenue to pursue.

Leah Cushman, R-Hillsborough, is the sponsor of HB1022. She said she believes Ivermectin is a viable treatment for COVID.

"As a registered nurse I want to make sure New Hampshire residents have options for treatment of COVID-19," she said.

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State Representative Jim Kofalt, R-Hillsborough, was the second sponsor on the bill.

"I have seen the politicization of some treatments regarded by some as ineffective, but not so by others," he said. "Ivermectin is available over the counter in 79 countries and it has a good safety profile."

Kofalt said some pharmacies and chains have said they are unwilling to fill valid prescriptions for Ivermectin, and that some doctors are hesitant to write prescriptions, feeling they will be censured if they do.

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Kofalt said he feels HB 1022 will come out of committee soon with an ought to pass recommendation.

State Rep. Bill Marsh, D-Carroll County, is a retired doctor who opposes HB1022.

"It is unworkable, a bad bill," said Marsh. "I think it would be subject to malpractice liability. The technical details cannot be fulfilled. And the state has no authority to make a drug be dispensed on a standing order. That is the realm of the FDA (Food and Drug Administration)."

"I am clearly sympathetic to the public who are clearly seeking answers," Meehan said. "Unfortunately, they are falling down a rabbit hole of misinformation. This is the first time in history that I know of where we have had a drug politicized for use. This is bad science and would be difficult to control. It is not an effective drug for COVID."

This article originally appeared on Fosters Daily Democrat: Doctors say Ivermectin does not work as a treatment for COVID-19