One person hospitalised after taking ivermectin for Covid-19 in Ireland

Drug, mainly used to treat parasites in horses, touted as cure for virus despite lack of evidence

Ivermectin-containing medicines are not authorised for use in Covid-19 in the EU, and the EMA has not received any application for such use. Photograph: Smith Collection/Gado/Getty Images

Ivermectin-containing medicines are not authorised for use in Covid-19 in the EU, and the EMA has not received any application for such use. Photograph: Smith Collection/Gado/Getty Images

 

One person has been hospitalised in Ireland this year after using ivermectin as a treatment for Covid-19.

The drug which is used to treat parasitic infections in humans and horses has been widely touted as a cure for the disease despite little evidence of its efficacy.

Over the summer there was a 3,000 per cent increase in seizures of the drug by health officials.

There have been two reports of poisonings of ivermectin made to the Irish Poisons Information Centre so far this year. Both related to the same patient who was hospitalised after taking it to treat Covid-19.

An official with the centre declined to go into detail of the person’s condition, citing privacy concerns.

The Irish Poisons Information Centre, which is based in Beaumont Hospital, provides a 24-hour service to doctors and healthcare professionals, to assist them in the management of acute poisoning.

The centre has received occasional reports of ivermectin poisoning in previous years but these have related to mainly farmers accidentally ingesting the substance.

Last week, the Health Products Regulatory Authority (HPRA) said almost 5,000 units of the medication were seized between July 2020 and July 2021. There were just 158 units seized in the previous 12 months.

Scant evidence

Ivermectin is a veterinary medicine used mainly to treat horses. It won the Nobel Prize for medicine in 2015 for the discovery of its efficacy in treating certain parasitic infections in humans.

But evidence that the medicine works to treat Covid-19 is scant, and products bought online are “likely to be illegal or falsified (fake) and could be harmful” to people’s health, a spokeswoman for the HPRA said.

She urged members of the public not to buy products online which claim to cure or prevent Covid-19, including ivermectin.

The European Medicines Agency (EMA) has reviewed available evidence on the use of the drug for the prevention and treatment of Covid-19 and concluded that the available data does not support its use for Covid-19 outside well-designed clinical trials.

Ivermectin-containing medicines are not authorised for use in Covid-19 in the EU, and the EMA has not received any application for such use, it has said.