Officials warn against heartworm, parasite medication for COVID-19

    Laina G. Stebbins

    If you’re worried about COVID-19, don’t reach for your pet’s heartworm prescription.

    The Michigan Department of Agriculture and Rural Development (MDARD) and the Michigan Department of Health and Human Services (DHHS) are warning Michiganders against using ivermectin, a drug approved by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) that prevents heartworm disease in small animals and certain internal and external parasites in animals and humans, to treat or prevent COVID-19.

    Madeline Ciak

    Ivermectin gained attention due to a pre-publication paper for the journal Antiviral Research after documenting how SARS-CoV-2, the virus that causes COVID-19, responded with the drug when exposed in a petri dish.

    Ivermectin was not given to people or animals in the study.

    State veterinarian Nora Wineland says that even though the results of ivermectin were intriguing, they mean little to nothing in the actual prevention or treatment of COVID-19 in animals or people.

    “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,” said Wineland.

    In addition, the FDA released a letter on April 10 stating that it was concerned about the health of people who may self-medicate by taking Ivermectin products intended for animals.

    “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,” warns the FDA.

    The FDA adds that animal drugs can cause serious harm in people, and that they shouldn’t 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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    DHHS Chief Medical Executive Dr. Joneigh Khaldun says that the department understands Michiganders’ concerns about COVID-19 and the desire to quickly find a cure, but that there aren’t any approved preventative medications for the disease.

    “We don’t want anyone to be harmed by taking medications inappropriately,” said Khaldun.

    Khaldun added that 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.

    Madeline Ciak
    Madeline Ciak covers the economy, health care and safety net, immigration and politics. She’s a University of Michigan-Flint graduate and previously worked as a digital media manager at NBC25/FOX66 in Flint and a weekend producer at ABC12. When she’s not writing or editing, she can be found reading, whipping something up in the Instant Pot, gardening or treasure hunting at thrift stores.