Authorities have warned people against acquiring drugs through back doors after a man who ordered COVID ‘treatments’ online presented at a hospital emergency department with vomiting and diarrhoea.
Ivermectin is a medicine that has effects against parasites, mites and worms
One vet told the ABC he has had suspicious requests for the drug, which is commonly used in animals
Ivermectin is not recommended for the treatment of COVID-19
The Western Sydney man, who recently presented to Westmead Hospital, overdosed on Ivermectin and other treatments, according to Westmead Hospital toxicologist Naren Gunja.
“There’s no evidence to support the use of Ivermectin to treat COVID-19,” he said.
“Don’t look for magic cures online and don’t rely on what’s being peddled on the internet, because none of them work.”
He said the person was lucky not to have developed severe toxicity.
Some vets and pharmacists have noticed a recent increase in demand for Ivermectin and are concerned people are going through back doors to access the drug, instead of getting vaccinated — something that is proven to save lives.
NSW Chief Health Officer Kerry Chant on Thursday asked the community not to take their healthcare into their own hands, without seeking expert medical advice.
“Make sure that you’ve got your health care provided by a healthcare practitioner and that you seek advice before taking any medications,” she said.
“It is important to seek the best health advice, our doctors in Australia are across the literature in terms of what drugs and therapies are useful in COVID, please listen to them.”
Vet on guard for people seeking to misuse Ivermectin
A vet’s job is to look after animals but sometimes they have to be on the lookout for when owners use their pets as an excuse to get hold of drugs for themselves.
Tom*, who spoke to the ABC on condition of anonymity, is a vet in Perth and said he recently had a suspicious conversation with a woman seeking Ivermectin.
“I was a bit confused as to what was going on,” he said.
“I asked the lady what she wanted the Ivermectin for and she said she wanted it for her horse, at which point I said, ‘Well you should probably ask a horse vet,’ and she kept changing the subject saying she wanted it for different animals.
“It sounded similar to [when] sometimes you get clients who you get suspicious of when they want strong pain killers, but at the time I had no idea why she’d want it.
Tom became concerned more people could be trying to obtain Ivermectin for personal use from vets and he has since put the word out to some of his colleagues.
“I’ve definitely made sure that everyone at the clinic I work at are sure of the link, so if people ask about Ivermectin then receptionists and nurses are aware of what they’re probably wanting it for,” he said.
What is Ivermectin and why are people going to vets to get hold of it?
Ivermectin is a medicine that has effects against parasites, mites and worms.
It is used in both animals and humans both as a pill and as an ingredient in shampoos and lotions.
Andrew McLachlan, the dean of pharmacy at the University of Sydney, said there are a few specific authorised uses for the drug.
“In Australia, really it’s recommended for different types of worm infections, particularly roundworms, a particular type of mite called scabies that people can have on the skin, and also an inflammatory process called Rosacea,” he said.
After some initial test-tube studies showed Ivermectin may have an effect on the COVID-19 virus, it sparked several trials around the world.
Professor MacLachlan said the studies were of varying quality.
He said the best review of the evidence to date, from the Cochrane Library, had not recommended the use of Ivermectin.
“Their analysis is that there’s not enough information at this stage to decide whether or not Ivermectin is effective in preventing or treating COVID and it is not recommended until we know further information about that.”
Health authorities attempt to counter misinformation
Among those to spread claims about Ivermectin are MP Craig Kelly and US-based conservative media figures.
Australia’s Therapeutic Goods Administration has detected increased importation and prescribing of Ivermectin and has reiterated its advice against using it to treat COVID-19.
But the demand has forced global health bodies to reinforce that the drug is not approved to treat COVID-19, including the US Food and Drug Administration, which tweeted a myth-busting article along with the message: “You are not a horse.”
Professor MacLachlan said the side effects of the drug, particularly overuse of it, were important to keep in mind.
“It can lead to conditions like diarrhoea, nausea but even dizziness and sleepiness in some people who are receiving the medicine,” he said.
“We also know in rare cases it can lead to life-threatening skin reactions, liver injury and also have an effect on your nervous system, so while it’s generally safe, like any medicine it does carry some risk of possible harmful effects that we need to look out for.”
The Pharmacy Guild of Australia told the ABC that the National COVID-19 Clinical Evidence Taskforce is not recommending the use of Ivermectin for COVID treatment outside of clinical trials.
“The Pharmacy Guild of Australia recognises that the prescribing of medicines off-label may be necessary, but should be evidence-based and with the patient’s informed consent,” said a spokesperson.
The World Health Organization has also said that Ivermectin should only be used in the context of clinical trials if it’s being used to treat COVID-19, so that patients can be closely monitored.
*Name has been changed to provide anonymity.
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