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Riverside doctors see an increase in emergency room visits because of ivermectin

Both Riverside and Sentara have banned the use of ivermectin to treat COVID-19. Medical experts say the drug could be unsafe and ineffective.

NEWPORT NEWS, Va. — As coronavirus cases trend upwards across the state, doctors at Riverside Health say they’ve seen an increase in people showing up at the emergency room after taking the anti-parasitic drug, ivermectin.

Riverside Health System President and Chief Operating Officer Dr. Mike Dacey has a warning if you’re considering experimenting with ivermectin to treat or prevent COVID-19: “Please don’t do that. That’s a very good way for you to become even more ill.” 

Dacey says ivermectin is a not an approved treatment for the coronavirus.

“We don’t use it particularly within the hospitals, we don’t think there’s any evidence to support its use," he said.

And it’s not just Riverside. Sentara Healthcare is in the middle of a legal battle after Dr. Paul Marik sued Sentara for banning ivermectin as a COVID treatment.

“There are people that have been promoting its use," Dacey said. "Particularly some physicians in the region, I don’t know why they’re promoting its use. The evidence is very clear that it does not work and it may in fact have some toxicity.”

So what is ivermectin?

It started out as an animal de-wormer for use in livestock, but eventually, it became useful in humans as an anti-parasitic. But it has not shown that same usefulness against viruses.  

Dacey said ivermectin can be dangerous in humans, and the number of people showing up in Riverside’s emergency rooms after self-medicating with ivermectin has “gone up" in the last few weeks.

“We’ve seen in our emergency departments, a number of patients that have come in taking very high doses," Dacey said. "And they have neurological changes, they have seizures, it’s a very dangerous drug to use if you’re not a medical professional.”

The CDC and FDA have not approved ivermectin as a safe or effective treatment against COVID.

Even the drug’s manufacturer, the pharmaceutical company Merck, does not recommend ivermectin for COVID treatments.

“There is certainly an unfortunate political aspect to this, as well; I mean there’s no getting around that," Dacey said. "But the bottom line is, there is no evidence to support its use.”

Dacey said Riverside has approved treatments for COVID-19 in use at the hospital, but the best way to prevent severe illness is to get vaccinated.

He added, there are anti-viral drugs being developed as treatments for COIVD-19, including anti-viral pills by Merck and Pfizer that are under consideration by the FDA.