As COVID-19 cases continue to rise, health departments are warning Americans to avoid taking ivermectin, a drug used to treat parasites in humans and deworm livestock, as a treatment or preventive for the coronavirus.
“You are not a horse. You are not a cow. Seriously, y’all. Stop it,” tweeted the Food and Drug Administration on Saturday.
On Monday, the Mississippi State Department of Health issued a warning advising that livestock ivermectin was dangerous for humans, stating that “the Poison Control Center has received reports of at least two individuals hospitalized with potential ivermectin toxicity after ingesting livestock ivermectin.” The state has been dealing with some of the highest rates of COVID-19 cases, hospitalizations and deaths in the country as well as one of the lowest vaccination rates.
“I think some people are trying to use it as a [COVID-19] preventative, which I think is really kind of crazy, so please don’t do that,” said Dr. Thomas Dobbs, the state’s top health official, at a briefing last week.
“You wouldn’t get your chemotherapy at a feed store. I mean, you wouldn’t treat your pneumonia with your animal’s medication,” he added. “It can be dangerous to get the wrong doses of medication, especially for something that’s meant for a horse or a cow.”
The FDA first warned about the drug in April 2020, with the director of the organization’s Center for Veterinary Medicine saying the group was “concerned about the health of consumers who may self-medicate by taking ivermectin products intended for animals, thinking they can be a substitute for ivermectin intended for humans.”
In February, the National Institutes of Health said there was insufficient evidence to rule for or against the use of ivermectin for treating COVID-19. In March, a randomized study in the medical journal JAMA found that the drug did not speed up recovery from the disease. That same month, the FDA published an explainer on why the drug should not be used to treat or prevent COVID-19.
“There’s a lot of misinformation around, and you may have heard that it’s okay to take large doses of ivermectin,” the agency said. “That is wrong. Even the levels of ivermectin for approved uses can interact with other medications, like blood-thinners. You can also overdose on ivermectin, which can cause nausea, vomiting, diarrhea, hypotension (low blood pressure), allergic reactions (itching and hives), dizziness, ataxia (problems with balance), seizures, coma and even death.”
In July, a study often cited by promoters of the drug was retracted due to “ethical concerns.” According to the Guardian, “the introduction section of the paper appeared to have been almost entirely plagiarized,” and “the raw data apparently [contradicted] the study protocol on several occasions.”
Echoing the promotion of hydroxychloroquine last year, conservative media figures such as Fox News hosts Tucker Carlson, Sean Hannity and Laura Ingraham — who first promoted ivermectin on her Twitter feed in May 2020 — have mentioned the drug as a potential counter to COVID-19.
Last week, Fox News guest host Will Cain said the drug was one of “many, many promising treatments out there that can save lives” but that it “disappeared from the public health conversation,” adding that “more studies need to be done” to prove its effectiveness.
There are also numerous Facebook groups, public and private, promoting the drug.
“It saved my wife’s life, it cleared my lungs of Covid,” read one Facebook post in a group called “The People’s Medicine: Ivermectin; Safe Effective Economical,” which has 16,000 members. “With no side effects! Trouble Is People aren’t being treated with ivermectin because the insurance companies Don’t pay out huge sums of money if a patient is cured with it in expensive alternative,” the post said.
“I’ll take Facebook jail,” read another post on Tuesday, “But I’m going to say it!!! We are witnessing mass murder in our medical facilities!!! Refusing a safe cure for Covid-19, because there are no insurance payouts! These PEOPLE SHOULD BE ASHAMED! THIS IS SICK!”
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