2 New Mexicans have died of Ivermectin toxicity, state health officials say

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ALBUQUERQUE, N.M. – State health leaders say more people are taking Ivermectin to treat COVID-19. In some cases, it’s been deadly.

The New Mexico Department of Health said two people in New Mexico have died from Ivermectin toxicity. Not much is known about either patient — but one of them was battling a severe case of COVID-19.

"It’s a serious issue, we need to watch it,” said Dr. David Scrase, NMDOH acting secretary.

New Mexico health leaders are sounding the alarm on Ivermectin. Poison control said there have been 20 exposures to the drug this year alone – already double the usual amount.

"We’ve had cases of seizures, hallucinations, coma, you know it can be very dangerous if you take a high enough dose,” said Susan Smolinske, director of New Mexico Drug and Information Center.

Officials say the majority of those exposures happened in just the past few weeks, and most of them to treat or prevent COVID-19.

Health experts say the data just isn’t there to prove it works.

"Our medical advisory team has looked at this 3 times – still does not feel people should be taking it and of course, the FDA has not yet approved it,” said Scrase.

Ivermectin is almost exclusively used to treat parasites in horses and cattle and, in rare instances, humans.

“Same drug, different formulation, different dose,” said Scrase. “If you take too much, you go into a coma, you may have seizures, you may have hallucinations, it’s basically a neurologic toxin.”

Recent studies have shown it has some effect on COVID-19 but at a pretty significant cost.

"When it was combined with standard therapy, it had a lower death rate and progression to severe disease. But in that in vitro study, you needed clearly toxic doses in order to achieve that effect on virus replication,” said Smolinske.

But health leaders are urging people to stick to what’s already proven to be safe and effective.

"Don’t take something that has no data to prevent a disease, where we have effective preventative therapies for this disease. We have vaccines, we have masks, we have social distancing, we know those things work,” Smolinske said.

Health leaders are urging people to stay away from the drug.

If you or someone you know has taken Ivermectin, you’re encouraged to call New Mexico Poison Control at 1-(800)-222-1222.