Ivermectin flies off shelves, experts warn people not to take the drug meant for livestock

Published: Sep. 15, 2021 at 6:44 PM MST
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TUCSON, Ariz. (KOLD News 13) - A drug used to cure parasites in livestock has made the rounds on social media as cure for COVID-19, but medical experts and feed stores are urging people not to take it.

Vaquero Feed & Livestock Supply is filled with all the needs for livestock, but one crucial medicine is running low on the shelves: ivermectin.

“Ivermectin is very effective in multiple animal species … to eliminate stomach worms, stomach parasites,” said Barbara Jackson, owner, Vaquero Feed & Livestock Supply. “We are experiencing backorders on some of these products.”

People are taking it as a way to cure or prevent COVID-19.

“It’s the rumor mill, it’s gone rampant,” said Jackson. “The animal product is not labeled for human use, it’s not been tested for human use.”

A health advisory from the CDC in late August reported a rapid increase in ivermectin prescriptions and serious illnesses related to taking the drug. Prescriptions for the drug have increased 24-fold since pre-pandemic times, and in July, poison control calls for ivermectin sharply increase, to a five-fold increase from baseline, according to the CDC. Hospitalizations and visits due to ingestion have also increased.

“During the month of August Banner’s poison center managed 10 cases. Some that were so severe that they did require hospitalization,” said Dr. Marjorie Bessel, Banner Health. “Ivermectin is not something that our poison center gets many calls about, so this is very concerning to us to see this growing trend.”

According to Dr. Sean Elliot, with Pediatric Infectious Diseases at TMC, ivermectin doesn’t have any effect on COVID-19, but it can cause some very harmful side effects.

The CDC reports side effects from taking ivermectin could include confusion, dizziness, seizures and coma. Banner Health said it could even result in death if too much is taken.

“I want to make very clear that ivermectin is not an FDA approved treatment for COVID. Clinical trials are ongoing to assess Ivermectin for COVID, but no clear findings have been released that confirm this drug is safe or is an effective treatment for COVID,” said Bessel.

Jackson’s store tries not to sell to folks who seem to be seeking just the drug and have posted signs with health precautions and factual information.

“It scares me. I don’t want people to get sick from using it,” said Jackson.

Banner Health urges people to seek care from their primary care physician regarding COVID and other health concerns.

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