By Beth Lawrence
Some people reluctant to take the COVID-19 vaccine but afraid to get the virus are turning to an unapproved treatment using a drug largely intended for livestock.
Ivermectin has been flying off the shelves of feed stores nationwide and in Western North Carolina because of a suggestion that it could be used to prevent or treat COVID-19.
Bryson’s Farm Supply cannot even obtain the drug because their supplier hasn’t sent it for more than a month. The supplier has not told her why they are not sending it, according to the owner.
Tractor Supply still offers the drug, but with caveats.
“We have signs to remind our guests that these products are for animal use only,” a spokesperson for Tractor Supply said.
Ivermectin should not be used for COVID for two reasons. First, ivermectin is typically intended for use in large farm animals. Second, it is not approved for use against COVID.
The trend spurred the Food and Drug Administration to post a warning on its Twitter account.
“You are not a horse. You are not a cow,” it said. “Seriously y’all, stop it. Using the drug Ivermectin to treat COVID-19 can be dangerous and even lethal. The FDA has not approved the drug for that purpose.”
Ivermectin is used to treat intestinal parasites and heartworms in large farm animals. It has limited uses in humans for intestinal parasites and topically for lice and skin conditions such as rosacea.
The medication purchased from a feedstore is created for animal use meaning there are higher concentrations of Ivermectin in it in addition to inactive ingredients not approved for use in humans. Even Ivermectin concentrations safe for humans can cause drug interactions with medications like blood thinners, the FDA said in an article on its website.
Poisoning from large concentrations can be serious.
“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,” the FDA warned.
The rumors may have been prompted by the results of several small studies.
The National Institute of Health has reviewed a handful of medical trials from around the world suggesting the drug might be useful, but the institute did not find enough evidence to approve or disapprove that hypothesis.
In a statement on its website the NIH said more work was needed.
“Results from adequately powered well designed and well conducted clinical trials are needed to provide more specific evidence,” the statement said.
North Carolina Poison Control has not seen increased calls due to misuse of the drug, said PIO Alexa Steverson.
She did not comment on whether calls had increased over previous years.