FDA, Poison Control say ‘neigh’ to ivermectin

COVID/horse medicine treatment seen in county

AP PHOTO This Jan. 29 photo shows the packaging and a container of veterinary ivermectin in Johannesburg, South Africa. Health experts and medical groups are pushing to stamp out the growing use of the drug to treat COVID-19, warning that it can cause harmful side effects and there’s little evidence it helps.

A drug used to deworm horses is being touted as an alternative treatment for COVID-19, but the Food and Drug Administration warns to stay away from ivermectin.

Ivermectin has gained steam as an alternative to COVID-19 vaccines among people who are skeptical of the safety of taking the vaccine. Last week, podcast host Joe Rogan became the latest voice to push the drug to his estimated 11 million listeners as a way to combat COVID symptoms after he tested positive for the virus and was symptomatic.

Meanwhile the Pfizer version of the COVID vaccine earned federal approval on Aug. 23.

Ivermectin is not approved by the FDA for preventing or treating COVID-19. A form of ivermectin was approved in the 1980s for human use to treat parasites and some skin conditions but it is different from what is used on livestock.

“Never use medicines that are intended for animals for yourself,” said Grant Houselog, Assistant Director for Iowa Poison Control. “The vet formulations are often for use in large animals. They can be highly concentrated.”

Marshall County Public Health Nurse Pat Thompson has not received calls or questions about ivermectin.

At least one farm supply store manager in Marshalltown said their store has sold more ivermectin than normal this year and some customers purchased it with the intention of using it to prevent COVID-19 infection. The manager noted his store carries the medicine in a paste for deworming horses which has a 1.85 percent concentration of ivermectin. There is also a liquid version which is given by injection.

Ivermectin used for livestock carries a warning label stating it is not for human consumption and “severe adverse reactions could occur.” Many stores which carry the drug display signs warning customers not to use animal medicine for themselves.

“When taken by a human it can easily lead to an overdose,” Houselog said. “Symptoms that we can see — certainly nausea, vomiting, diarrhea; risk for allergic reactions like hives; low blood pressure, seizures, coma and even death.”

Houselog said Poison Control normally receives several calls monthly about accidental exposure to ivermectin. People may get it in their eyes or mouth inadvertently while treating an animal. The number of these calls has not increased in any significant way this year, but the American Association of Poison Control Centers is aware of an increased interest in the drug.

The FDA has received reports of people requiring medical attention after self-medicating with the livestock version of ivermectin.

The FDA website states “Currently available data do not show ivermectin is effective against COVID-19.”

The site also suggests if anyone is prescribed ivermectin by a doctor, have the prescription filled by a legitimate source like a pharmacy.

The version of ivermectin used for humans can interact negatively with other medications like blood thinners and should be consulted about with a doctor.


The Iowa Poison Control call center is available 24/7 to answer questions or respond to exposure to ivermectin at 1-800-222-1222.


Contact Joe Fisher at news@timesrepublican.com.


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