Citing health risk, Alaska health officials caution against using Ivermectin for COVID-19

Published: Aug. 27, 2021 at 3:35 PM AKDT
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FAIRBANKS, Alaska (KTVF) - Alaska health officials are cautioning against the use of Ivermectin to treat COVID-19 infections, citing health risks.

According to Dr. Coleman Cutchins, Clinical Pharmacist for the State of Alaska, viruses by nature are inherently difficult to treat. “I always remind people of one of the old mantras in viral infectious diseases: “Mitigation not medication”. Viruses are tough to treat, we don’t have good treatment options. How many times have you been sick and you went to your doctor and they said ‘It’s just a virus, you’re going to have to get over it?’ Viruses are not easy to treat in terms of drugs treating active infections. Vaccines - they teach our immune system how to identify it in the future, and it is our most effective treatment.”

And while Ivermectin is occasionally used for humans, Dr. Cutchins emphasized it has not been shown to be effective against COVID-19. “Ivermectin is a drug that we use to treat worm and parasitic infections. It’s used widely in the veterinary and agricultural industry. We do use it in humans to treat roundworm infections and some lice infections and parasites. Not viruses, not bacteria, we use it to treat parasites.”

According to Dr. Cutchins, Ivermectin in particular stays in the human body for a considerable amount of time. “The other thing for me, given my background as a clinical pharmacist that’s really concerning is when we have a drug with an established dose, we can know what the safety profile is. So when we do give Ivermectin, which is an old established drug for parasitic infections, we usually give it as a ‘once dose’ which means you take one dose once. When you look at the misinformation out there, the thing that doesn’t make sense when you look at Ivermectin for COVID are kind of those other parameters. It doesn’t get absorbed very well when you take it by mouth, so you don’t get very good systemic concentrations.”

With misinformation on dosage spreading for Ivermectin spreading, Dr. Cutchins says there is concern over the potential for medical risk. “The other thing with this drug is that it’s in our body for a pretty long time. So if you look at that dose that you take once, it’s really in your body for 80 to 100 hours. It has a long elimination half life. So if we think about it, if we take a drug that we usually take once, it gets eliminated from our body in 80 or so hours. That’s different than if we take that same drug... and a lot of these sites that look like legitimate websites - and they’re not - are recommending doses that are like three, four, and five times higher than what we do once. So now our initial level is that much higher. If we take it daily, it keeps getting higher, and higher, and higher and you’re exposed to the drug for a much longer period of time - and we don’t know what the safety profile is on that.”

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