Virus Outbreak Parasite Drug

A syringe of of ivermectin — a drug used to kill worms and other parasites — intended for use in horses only, rests on the box it was packaged in, Friday, Sept. 10, 2021, in Olympia, Wash. Health experts and medical groups are pushing to stamp out the growing use of the parasite drug to treat COVID-19, warning that it can cause harmful side effects and that there's little evidence it helps. (AP Photo/Ted S. Warren)

Across the country, doctors have reported people taking ivermectin, a medicine used to deworm horses and cattle and fight some parasites in humans, to treat COVID-19. 

“People who are relying upon ivermectin and remaining unvaccinated are under a tremendous false sense of security,” Dr. Steven Brown, a virtual care physician with Mercy hospitals, said in an interview with KMOV. Brown has been treating COVID-19 patients in Mercy hospitals in Missouri, Arkansas and Oklahoma for the past year and a half. 

He has a serious message for those who are continuing to take the livestock form of ivermectin.

“I have seen people with ivermectin toxicity in the emergency room from taking the animal formulation. I’ve seen people who relied on ivermectin to prevent themselves from getting COVID who are on ventilators and who have died,” Brown said. 

Brown isn’t alone. The Associated Press reported Tuesday on a growing surge in the use of the drug and health officials’ efforts to prevent its continued use.

The U.S. Food and Drug Administration released a statement urging people not to use ivermectin to prevent or treat COVID-19 due to the danger of taking large doses and the fact that it has not been proven to treat COVID-19.

“You are not a horse. You are not a cow. Seriously, y’all. Stop it,” the FDA tweeted.

Veterinarians and animal supply stores nationwide have been selling out of ivermectin meant for animals.

 In Washington, however, those selling ivermectin haven’t experienced the same uptick.

Julie Becker, practice manager at Franklin County Animal Medical Center, said they haven’t gotten any unusual requests for the drug. She said that when she and her co-workers started reading about people using ivermectin for COVID-19, they expected to field numerous calls asking for it, but they didn’t get any.

She said that at Franklin County Animal Medical Center, in order to get the drug, a veterinarian would have to make a farm visit, which might have deterred people from seeking the drug there. However, Becker still expected some requests.

Orscheln Farm & Home in Washington sells ivermectin, but an employee said they hadn’t seen an uptick in purchases. For further discussion, she directed The Missourian to the company’s corporate offices, which declined to comment.

Local health officials advise people not to use the drug to treat COVID-19. Dr. Ann-Elizabeth Mohart, chief medical officer at Mercy Hospital Washington, said there’s just no good evidence it works.

She said ivermectin has been studied in vitro, which means in a lab, and in humans for COVID-19, but the studies that have been done were not up to par.

“There are different standards we hold research to,” she said. “Not all research is legitimate, and not all research is good quality research, so the study must be designed a certain way to even have any meaning or to be significant. Anyone could go out and do a study, but if it’s not designed really well and well powered with a large number of people with controls and things like that, the data can be very hard to interpret and can be misleading.”

Mohart said that could be happening with ivermectin.

“The current consensus among medical community, the World Health Organization and various large global health organizations that have all looked at these studies is, unfortunately, these studies were done in such a way that we can’t tell for certain if ivermectin really made a difference in these patients,” she said. Many of these studies had confounding factors, or elements of the study that skewed the results, she said.

She said if more higher-quality studies are done and those results favor using ivermectin to treat COVID-19, she will follow that guidance. But for now, she does not recommend taking it.

Mohart said the most dangerous part about ivermectin is that people are using it improperly. More specifically, they are taking too much of it.

“A lot of the formulations you can buy over the counter are intended for use in animals like cattle and horses that can weigh between 1,000 and 2,000 pounds, certainly not a good dose for a human,” she said. “It’s very easy for people to miscalculate that dose, which is usually weight based.”

She said she’s read a lot of reports from around the world of people being poisoned because they took too much ivermectin. Fortunately, she said she hasn’t seen poisonings or toxicity at Mercy Hospital Washington. However, she said Mercy has had physicians who have heard patients describe vomiting or diarrhea after taking ivermectin for COVID-19.

Mohart recommends people trust vaccinations over ivermectin to fight COVID-19.