ATLANTA - The U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention said it’s seeing a "rapid increase" of severe illnesses as more people turn to ivermectin, an anti-parasitic drug, to treat COVID-19 despite stern warnings from health officials not to do so.
"Ivermectin is not authorized or approved by FDA for prevention or treatment of COVID-19," CDC officials said in an advisory. "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 CDC said in 2021, poison control centers across the U.S. received a three-fold increase in the number of calls for human exposures to ivermectin compared to pre-pandemic levels.
In July 2021, ivermectin calls rose to a five-fold increase compared to pre-pandemic levels.
Some symptoms associated with ivermectin toxicity are rash, nausea, vomiting, abdominal pain, neurological disorders and potentially severe hepatitis requiring hospitalization.
The CDC also said since early July 2021 ivermectin prescriptions rose sharply to a 24-fold increase from pre-pandemic levels. The drug, ivermectin, has been reportedly flying off stores shelves in multiple states, including Texas and Oklahoma.
The U.S. Food and Drug Administration has approved ivermectin in both people and animals for some parasitic worms and for head lice and skin conditions. It has not approved its use in treating or preventing COVID-19 in humans.
"You are not a horse. You are not a cow, Seriously, y’all. Stop it," the FDA tweeted on Aug. 21.
The FDA said initial research is underway to see if the drug is effective in combating the coronavirus.
The FDA reminded people that effective ways to limit the spread of the COVID-19 are to wear a mask, stay at least 6 feet from others who don’t live with you, wash hands frequently, and avoid crowds.
Health officials are also urgently asking people to get vaccinated. The U.S. gave full approval to Pfizer’s COVID-19 vaccine Aug. 23, opening the way for more universities, companies and local governments to make vaccinations mandatory. Moderna has also applied to the FDA for full approval of its vaccine. Johnson & Johnson, maker of the third COVID-19 vaccine option in the U.S., said it hopes to do so later this year.
Moderna and Johnson & Johnson vaccines are approved for emergency use.
According to the CDC, more than 173 million Americans are fully vaccinated, representing 52.4% of the country's total population.
FOX Business and the Associated Press contributed to this report. This story was reported from Los Angeles.