Ivermectin: Experts warn against using farm animal drug as a COVID treatment

Health

CHARLOTTE, NC (FOX 46 CHARLOTTE) – At a recent Mecklenburg County Board of Commissioners meeting, a man opposing the county’s mask mandate touted a drug that has been widely claimed on social media to work.

“Make sure anyone who gets COVID or this Delta variant has access to Ivermectin,” he said.

The drug the man mentioned is an anti-parasitic drug that is used, in humans, to treat scabies and parasites, and has to be prescribed by a doctor.  It has not been definitively proven and has not been approved, to treat COVID-19.

But there’s another version of Ivermectin that is meant for large farm animals and livestock that is available without a prescription, and normally available on farm supply store shelves–a version that is now seeing its supply run dry because people believe it can be used on a human to treat COVID.

“We get, on average, about half dozen calls a from people looking for Ivermectin,” said Patrick Holton, owner of Woof ‘n Hoof, a Mint Hill-based store specializing in pet food and supplies for horses.

Holton said the Ivermectin he normally would have sold was for horses–and he says he’s not selling it anymore.

“The thought of a 150-200 pound person putting something in their body that’s meant for a 1,500-2,500-pound animal … that’s why you get all these reports from Poison Control about these calls,” he said.

Holton is right.  Poison Control Centers across the country have seen an uptick in calls from people trying to take the animal concentration of Ivermectin. 

The Food and Drug Administration also recently issued an advisory indicating the danger of the animal version of the drug.

The source for the belief in Ivermectin has largely to do with people claiming it’s an effective treatment on social media, though doctors said that information is flawed.

“The studies that we have show that it is not effective,” said Dr. Arin Parimzadian with StarMed. “The studies that did initially show success–when we went to reproduce those studies, you can’t reproduce it.”

Parimzadian noted the use of Ivermectin in humans, noting its specific classification as an anti-parasitic medication.

“It’s not an anti-viral.  COVID is a virus.  It’s not a parasite,” said Parimzadian.

Doctors said the animal concentration of Ivermectin, normally found in farm supply stores, is poisonous to humans.  Side effects of overdosing on the drug include seizures, tremors, and even death.

FOX46 reached out to several stores in Mecklenburg County, who noted short or non-existent supplies of Ivermectin in the last several weeks, and their belief that people could be using it as a way to treat any potential COVID-19 symptoms, despite clear warnings on labels and signs in stores, indicating that it was not meant for human consumption.

“There’s legitimate people that need this for their horses, and now they can’t get that medication,” said Holton.

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