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You may have heard a lot about the drug ivermectin in the news over the past few years. According to the National Institutes of Health (NIH), many people have gone against medical advice and taken this antiparasite medication as treatment for COVID-19.

People who are concerned about the newest variants of COVID-19 may be wondering if they can take ivermectin when they live with type 1 diabetes (T1D).

This article will outline what ivermectin is, how it’s meant to be used, and whether or not you should take the drug to treat COVID-19, especially if you live with T1D.

Ivermectin is a prescription-only, oral medication that is used in the treatment of parasites. It can treat internal infections caused by roundworms, threadworms, and other parasites that are contracted by eating undercooked meat or drinking contaminated water.

Additionally, the medication can treat several tropical diseases, including onchocerciasis, helminthiasis, and scabies.

The Food and Drug Administration (FDA) has also approved ivermectin for use in animals. It can prevent heartworm disease in some small breeds and treat certain internal and external parasites in various animals.

A 1997 article discussed the safety of the drug, noting that researchers didn’t find ivermectin led to any more deaths in animals or people when used as prescribed.

However, ivermectin is not FDA-approved for the treatment of any viral disease, including COVID-19.

Throughout the COVID-19 pandemic, some people have shared that they’ve taken ivermectin to try to help treat their COVID-19 symptoms. This is due to the belief that the medication is safe and effective.

A 2020 study showed that ivermectin could inhibit replication of SARS-CoV-2 in cell cultures. However, a different 2020 study suggests that achieving the plasma concentrations necessary for this effect detected in vitro would require doses up to 100-fold higher than those approved for use in humans.

This makes it a dangerous way to treat COVID-19 and a tactic that goes against all professional medical advice.

You may be prescribed this medication for the treatment of a parasite, such as roundworms or threadworms, or a tropical disease, such as onchocerciasis, helminthiases, or scabies. If so, make sure your healthcare professional knows that you have diabetes.

A small 2015 study has shown that having type 2 diabetes (T2D) specifically may make ivermectin less effective in treating parasitic diseases.

Always mention any type of diabetes you have if you’re given a prescription for ivermectin. Remember that taking ivermectin without the guidance of a licensed medical professional, or taking ivermectin intended for animals, is dangerous.

The medication itself should not impact people with diabetes the way insulin or steroids impact blood sugars. Insulin can lower glucose, while steroids can raise glucose.

Older research from a 2006 study indicates the medication improved hyperglycemic levels in diabetic mice, and a 2013 study indicates it improves metabolic function in mice. Of course, mice in research does not always translate to the same effect in people.

In general, common side effects of taking ivermectin can include:

  • loss of appetite
  • fatigue
  • diarrhea
  • dizziness
  • nausea and vomiting
  • loss of energy
  • abdominal pain

Those side effects aren’t specific to diabetes, but each can affect the way you manage your diabetes. For example, they could stop you from eating or taking your insulin or diabetes medications as directed.

Ivermectin should not be used for the treatment of COVID-19.

FDA warnings about ivermectin

The federal agency is responsible for protecting the public health by ensuring the safety, effectiveness, and security of human and veterinary drugs and products.

The FDA first released a warning against using the medication to treat COVID-19 in April 2020. This warning was updated and posted again in 2021.

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In the FDA’s warning, they state that they are concerned about the health and well-being of people who may self-medicate by taking ivermectin that’s intended for animals.

Medications designed for animals can cause serious bodily harm when taken by humans. Additionally, the FDA is concerned about people taking ivermectin without the guidance of a licensed healthcare professional. This guidance is needed for ivermectin’s intended use, to treat parasites and rare tropical diseases.

Many people have mistakenly thought that taking ivermectin helped their COVID-19 symptoms. In reality, these people had undiagnosed parasites. Having parasites makes recovering from viral diseases, such as COVID-19, harder.

Taking ivermectin cured people of their parasites, meaning they were able to recover from COVID-19 better. But a 2021 review has shown that ivermectin was not directly effective at treating COVID-19. It also did not reduce hospital stays or mortality.

The FDA warns that people who self-medicate with drugs like ivermectin may delay or cancel seeking professional, emergency medical help for COVID-19 symptoms. This may lead to increased hospital admissions, severe bouts of COVID-19, and deaths.

Get emergency medical attention if you’ve self-medicated with ivermectin without the guidance of a licensed medical professional.

Ivermectin is a prescription-only, oral medication used to treat parasites and rare tropical diseases in humans and parasitic infections in small breed animals. The FDA has warned against using this drug to treat COVID-19.

People with T1D may be negatively affected by the medication’s side effects. It also may not work as well at treating parasites in people with T2D.

Ivermectin has shown improved glucose response and improved metabolic function in clinically controlled environments in diabetic mice. But it remains unknown if those improvements may also be seen in people with diabetes.