Health officials from a number of states, as well as the Food and Drug Administration (FDA), are issuing warnings against the use of a medicine that is intended for deworming farm animals, which many vaccine-wary individuals have ingested themselves as a means to treat or prevent coronavirus, in spite of there being no proof of its being effective against COVID.
The drug, called Ivermectin, is generally administered to horses. A version of the medicine for human consumption also exists, but it comes in lower dosages, and is used to treat parasitic infections, not viruses like COVID-19. Indeed, there is no evidence to suggest the drug is effective at all in treatment for the virus, a fact that has been known for over a year.
Consumers, however, have been buying up the drug in droves in recent weeks, leading to its being sold out in many places, including in Oklahoma and Mississippi. Officials from both of those states have noted that poison control calls related to the drug have increased recently (accounting for around 70 percent of all recent poison-related calls in Mississippi alone), and they are advising people to stop taking the medication intended for animals.
Continuing to do so, they warn, can cause significant harm to a person’s body.
“Once the damage is done in these situations, you’re not going back,” said Mary Clarke with the Oklahoma State Medical Association.
“I think some people are trying to use it as a preventative, which I think is really kind of crazy. So please don’t do that,” Mississippi State Health Officer Thomas Dobbs recently said.
People who use the drug can experience a myriad of symptoms, including rash, nausea, abdominal pain, vomiting, neurological disorders and severe hepatitis that could require hospitalization, The Washington Post reported.
Noting that the drug is being used by people who oppose both getting a vaccine to prevent contracting coronavirus and wearing masks to mitigate its spread, Mississippi Department of Health Communications Director Liz Sharlot expressed chagrin over people’s decision to use an unproven and dangerous method like ingesting Ivermectin to prevent infection and treat COVID.
“You have a vaccine that’s safe and effective. And yet people, as opposed to getting the vaccine, want to go after these kinds of things,” Sharlot said.
The FDA was more blunt in some of its comments over the use of the cattle deworming medication. “You are not a horse. You are not a cow. Seriously, y’all. Stop it,” the agency wrote on its Twitter feed, supplying a link in its message that described why using the drug is a bad idea.
You are not a horse. You are not a cow. Seriously, y'all. Stop it. https://t.co/TWb75xYEY4
— U.S. FDA (@US_FDA) August 21, 2021
Mississippi has struggled especially hard with coronavirus in recent weeks. The state currently has the highest per capita rate of COVID cases in the country, with 118 residents out of every 100,000 reporting new infections daily. (For comparison, the national rate is at 45 infections for every 100,000). Mississippi is also currently reporting the second-highest rate of deaths in the U.S. related to the virus, behind just Louisiana on that metric.
But while many residents seem willing to try unproven methods like Ivermectin to combat the virus, Mississippi has an incredibly low rate of vaccinations. Only 37 percent of the state’s residents are fully vaccinated, tying it with Alabama for last place on that measure.