Health officials warn public not to use heartworm disease medicine for animals as treatment for COVID-19 in humans

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LANSING, Mich. (WLNS) – The state is following warnings issued by federal officials to urge the public not to use medicine intended for animals as a treatment for COVID-19 in humans.

The Michigan Department of Health and Human Services as well as the Michigan Department of Agriculture and Rural Development are urging residents to not use the drug ivermectin as a treatment for COVID-19.

The drug is approved by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration for use in some small animal species for prevention of heartworm disease. It has also been approved as a treatment for certain internal and external parasites in various animal species as well as humans.

“We understand Michiganders’ concerns about COVID-19 and the desire to find a cure quickly,” said Dr. Joneigh Khaldun, chief medical executive and chief deputy for health. “However, there are no approved preventive medications for COVID-19 in humans, and we do not want anyone being harmed by taking medications inappropriately. Staying home and practicing good public health practices like washing hands frequently, wearing a homemade mask if you must go out, and covering coughs and sneezes appropriately is the best way to slow the spread of COVID-19.”

Recently, the drug gained some attention because it was mentioned in a pre-publication research paper.

“We cannot emphasize this strongly enough: this study was not tested in humans or in animals,” said State Veterinarian Nora Wineland. “It was done in a petri dish. As intriguing as the results may be, at this point, they mean little to nothing in the actual prevention or treatment of COVID-19 in either animals or humans. Ivermectin sold for use in animals has not been evaluated for safety in species other than those listed on the label and may cause serious harm if taken by people.”

These warnings follow similar warnings from the FDA on April 10th.

In the letter, the FDA states it is “concerned about the health of consumers who may self-medicate by taking ivermectin products intended for animals, thinking they can be a substitute for ivermectin intended for humans. People should never take animal drugs, as the FDA has only evaluated their safety and effectiveness in the particular animal species for which they are labeled. These animal drugs can cause serious harm in people. People should not take any form of ivermectin unless it has been prescribed to them by a licensed health care provider and is obtained through a legitimate source.”

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