CDC issues Health Advisory on Ivermectin and the use of products containing Ivermectin to prevent or treat COVID-19

Photo of Ivermectin tablets

The CDC has issued a Health Advisory pertaining to the use of Ivermectin and the use of products containing Ivermectin for the treatment of COVID-19.

Ivermectin is a U.S. Food and Drug Administration FDA-approved prescription medication used to treat certain infections caused by internal and external parasites. When used as prescribed for approved indications, it is generally safe and well-tolerated.

During the COVID-19 pandemic, ivermectin dispensing by retail pharmacies has increased, as has the use of veterinary formulations available over the counter but not intended for human use. FDA has cautioned about the potential risks of use for prevention or treatment of COVID-19.

Ivermectin is not authorized or approved by FDA for the prevention or treatment of COVID-19. The National Institutes of Health’s (NIH) COVID-19 Treatment Guidelines Panel has also determined that there are currently insufficient data to recommend ivermectin for treatment of COVID-19.  The Clinical Trials website has listings of ongoing clinical trials that might provide more information about these hypothesized uses in the future.

Adverse effects associated with ivermectin misuse and overdose are increasing, as shown by a rise in calls to poison control centers reporting overdoses and more people experiencing adverse effects.

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) confirmed with the American Association of Poison Control Centers (AAPCC) that human exposures and adverse effects associated with ivermectin reported to poison control centers have increased in 2021 compared to the pre-pandemic baseline. These reports include increased use of veterinary products not meant for human consumption.

Ivermectin is a medication that is approved by FDA in oral formulations to treat onchocerciasis (river blindness) and intestinal strongyloidiasis. Topical formulations are used to treat head lice and rosacea. Ivermectin is also used in veterinary applications to prevent or treat internal and external parasitic infections in animals. When used in appropriate doses for approved indications, ivermectin is generally well tolerated.

Clinical trials and observational studies to evaluate the use of ivermectin to prevent and treat COVID-19 in humans have yielded insufficient evidence for the NIH COVID-19 Treatment Guidelines Panel to recommend its use. Data from adequately sized, well-designed, and well-conducted clinical trials are needed to provide more specific, evidence-based guidance on the role of ivermectin in the treatment of COVID-19.

A recent study examining trends in ivermectin dispensing from outpatient retail pharmacies in the United States during the COVID-19 pandemic showed an increase from an average of 3,600 prescriptions per week at the pre-pandemic baseline (March 16, 2019–March 13, 2020) to a peak of 39,000 prescriptions in the week ending on January 8, 2021.1 Since early July 2021, outpatient ivermectin dispensing has again begun to rapidly increase, reaching more than 88,000 prescriptions in the week ending August 13, 2021. This represents a 24-fold increase from the pre-pandemic baseline.