Michigan Senate leader tweets about unapproved COVID treatment

Craig Mauger
The Detroit News

Lansing — Michigan Senate Majority Leader Mike Shirkey suggested Friday that medical experts should be "vigorously investigating" ivermectin as a treatment for COVID-19, even though health officials keep discouraging the use of the anti-parasitic drug in that way.

Currently available research does not demonstrate that ivermectin, which is used to treat infections caused by some parasitic worms, is effective against COVID-19, according to the U.S. Food and Drug Administration. But clinical trials examining the use of ivermectin tablets to combat COVID-19 are ongoing, the agency's website says.

Senate Majority Leader Mike Shirkey, R-Clarklake reacts to Democratic Gov. Gretchen Whitmer's second State of the State speech in this Jan. 30, 2020, file photo.

On Friday morning, Shirkey, R-Clarklake, tweeted a link to a website that claimed ivermectin had been successful in treating the virus.

"I am not qualified to determine the veracity of these studies," Shirkey posted. "That requires medical professionals. However, these claims beg the question why the medical community in America (or MI) isn't at least vigorously investigating?"

The Mississippi State Department of Health issued an alert last month, saying the state's poison control center had received "an increasing number of calls from individuals with potential ivermectin exposure taken to treat or prevent COVID-19 infection."

At least 70% of the recent calls had been related to ingestion of livestock or animal formulations of ivermectin purchased at livestock supply centers, the Mississippi alert said.

The FDA says people should "never use medications intended for animals"

"Animal ivermectin products are very different from those approved for humans," the administration's website says. "Use of animal ivermectin for the prevention or treatment of COVID-19 in humans is dangerous."

The FDA says ivermectin "has not been shown to be safe or effective" for treating or preventing COVID-19 in people or animals.

Dr. Varun Vohra, director of the Michigan Poison and Drug Information Center, said this week that Michigan has not experienced a spike in calls related to ivermectin, but the center is monitoring the data.

The Michigan center supports the FDA's stance, Vohra said, noting that ivermectin is not recommended for treating COVID-19. Using the drug in that way could lead to harmful effects, he said.

“If it hasn’t been FDA approved, I’d recommend against it," Vohra said. "Try to steer clear of social media because these are not vetted medical experts."

He also encouraged people to seek multiple opinions when asking a doctor about ivermectin. The number for Michigan's poison control center is 1-800-222-1222.

Shirkey, who previously had COVID-19, has drawn sharp criticism for some of his statements on the virus. The top GOP lawmaker in the Senate has not been vaccinated against COVID-19 and has touted his natural immunity.

He has questioned the Detroit Regional Chamber for requiring attendees at its upcoming Mackinac Policy Conference to be vaccinated. Shirkey argued people who have had the virus previously should be allowed to participate whether or not they have been vaccinated.

However, the federal Centers for Disease Control and Prevention recommends that people who have recovered from COVID-19 still get vaccinated.

"So @SenMikeShirkey is not qualified to speak about the use of ivermectin in fighting COVID-19, though he could easily cite the thousands of medical experts that have spoke out against using it," the Michigan Democratic Party tweeted Friday. "But he remains an expert in natural immunity and vaccines? Gotcha."

cmauger@detroitnews.com