‘You are not a horse’ FDA warns, as people in the US are poisoned after using animal medicine to treat and prevent Covid-19

  • Health authorities have warned against using a drug called ivermectin for coronavirus, as people have been buying the version meant for animals - which is toxic for humans
  • Even the drug produced for humans is not proven to be an effective treatment for the virus
Tribune News Service |

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The US Food and Drug Administration was forced to issue a tweet pleading people not to take an animal medicine as a Covid treatment on the same day it approved the Pfizer vaccine. Photo: DPA

The pandemic has certainly been a strange time for all of us, but we’re guessing that health officials in the US never would have guessed they would have to tell people not to use medicine meant for cows and horses.

Due to a rising spread of misinformation, authorities have warned against using a drug called ivermectin for unapproved use as a medicine to prevent or treat Covid-19.

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The drug, which has been approved only as an anti-parasitic treatment for humans and animals such as livestock and horses, has been the subject of a spike in calls to the Poison Control Centre in the US state of Mississippi.

The drugs produced for humans are different than the drug made for livestock, which is “highly concentrated and is toxic to people, and can cause serious harm,” the Mississippi State Department of Health said in an alert Monday. At least two people have been hospitalised with potential ivermectin toxicity after ingesting the drug produced for livestock, the state’s poison control center said on Monday.

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Interest in the drug is rising as the delta variant of the coronavirus has spurred higher Covid-19 transmission rates and increased concern among the vaccinated about becoming infected.

Multiple reports of patients treated or hospitalised after “self-medicating with ivermectin intended for horses” led the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) to issue a warning Friday. “You are not a horse. You are not a cow. Seriously, y’all. Stop it,” the agency tweeted.

Ivermectin in a pill form is used to treat parasitic worms in humans. A topical form of the drug is used to treat head lice and skin conditions such as rosacea, the FDA says.

Other forms of ivermectin are used to treat parasites in horses and cows and as a heartworm medicine for dogs.

An ivermectin overdose can cause nausea, vomiting, diarrhea, low blood pressure, an allergic reaction such as itching or hives, seizures, dizziness, problems with balance, coma and potentially death, according to the FDA, which has warned consumers about the potential harm for months,

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The FDA said it has not reviewed data to support use of the drug to prevent Covid-19, though some initial research is underway, and a UK study led by the University of Oxford is currently testing ivermectin as a treatment for Covid-19.

More study is needed, but there is “insufficient evidence to recommend either for or against the use of ivermectin for the treatment of Covid-19,” the National Institutes of Health said.

At least 70 per cent of recent calls to the Mississippi Poison Control Center involve the ingestion of ivermectin purchased at livestock supply centers, state epidemiologist Paul Byers said in Friday’s alert.

The Centres for Disease Control and Prevention said distribution of the drug increased and cases of poisoning rose fivefold in July, ABC News reported Monday.

“There’s a lot of misinformation around, and you may have heard that it’s okay to take large doses of ivermectin,” the FDA’s alert said. “That is wrong.”

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