(ABC4) – Health officials in the U.S. are encouraging individuals to stop taking a drug commonly used to treat horses and other livestock for worms. This comes as at least one state reports seeing an increase in incidents of people trying to use the drug to treat or prevent COVID-19 infection.
“You are not a horse,” the U.S. Food and Drug Administration says in a Saturday Twitter post. “You are not a cow. Seriously, y’all. Stop it.”
Last week, the Mississippi State Department of Health issued a health alert saying the Poison Control Center has received an increasing number of calls from individuals with a potential exposure to ivermectin to treat or prevent COVID-19. At least 70% of those recent calls have been for ingestion of livestock or animal formulations.
According to the FDA, there “seems to be a growing interest in a drug called ivermectin to treat humans with COVID-19.” Ivermectin is often used to treat or prevent parasites in animals. While ivermectin can be found in tablets that have been approved “at very specific doses for parasitic worms” and some topical formulations for head lice and skin conditions, the FDA says ivermectin is not an anti-viral, a drug to treat viruses.
Taking a large dose of ivermectin is dangerous and can cause serious harm, the FDA continues. Some initial research is underway to determine if ivermectin can be used to treat or prevent COVID-19 but the FDA says that data has not been reviewed. The FDA warns taking ivermectin without a prescription or using a version not approved for humans by the FDA can be dangerous.
According to the FDA, you can overdose on ivermectin, which can cause nausea, vomiting, diarrhea, low blood pressure, allergic reactions, dizziness, problems with balance, seizures, coma, and even death. This is partially due to the fact that animal drugs are often highly concentrated – because they are used in large animals – and those high doses can be toxic to humans. Additionally, there may be inactive ingredients in the drug that may not be evaluated for use in people.
The FDA says wearing a mask, social distancing, and getting the COVID-19 vaccine remain the most effective ways to limit the spread of the virus.