The Dangers of Taking Horse Deworming Drug Ivermectin to Treat COVID-19

veterinarian with horse

If you are considering taking ivermectin -- a medication usually intended to treat parasites in livestock -- to treat or prevent COVID-19 the FDA has a warning for you.

"You are not a horse. You are not a cow. Seriously, y'all. Stop it." the U.S. Food and Drug Administration tweeted recently, addressing the rise in people taking doses of the medication typically used to treat parasitic worms in livestock.

The New York Times reports prescriptions for ivermectin have jumped from a baseline average of 3,600 per week to 88,000 per week in mid-August. The medication is sometimes given to humans in small doses to treat head lice, scabies, and other parasites, but the medication is much more commonly given to animals, usually in higher doses and in more concentrated forms. There are reports of shortages of the medication and some people are seeking ivermectin out from livestock supply stores, where the dose is likely to be much higher than is intended for humans.

This jump in the use of ivermectin has caused an increase in calls to poison control centers around the country and Dr. Shawn Varney, a toxicologist and medical director for the South Texas Poison Center, tells the NYT, “I plead with people to stop using ivermectin and get the vaccine because it’s the best protection we have at this point. Everything else is risk after risk.”

Thus far, a review of 14 studies involving 1,600 participants and ivermectin has "concluded that none provided evidence of the drug’s ability to prevent COVID, improve patient conditions or reduce mortality," the NYT notes, and also goes on to stress that people should not buy into claims on social media regarding the livestock parasite medication and its unproven effectiveness to treat COVID.

Here are the reasons and different ways ivermectin can potentially be harmful and completely ineffective at treating COVID when used in humans, according to the FDA

- "Ivermectin is not an antiviral (a drug for treating viruses)... the FDA has not approved ivermectin for use in treating or preventing COVID-19 in humans."

- "Taking large doses of this drug is dangerous and can cause serious harm."

- An ivermectin overdose can cause "nausea, vomiting, diarrhea, hypotension (low blood pressure), allergic reactions (itching and hives), dizziness, ataxia (problems with balance), seizures, coma, and even death.

- The medication "can interact with other medications, like blood-thinners."

- Medications meant for animals (something humans SHOULD NEVER take) can contain ingredients not safe or designed for human consumption and will often come in large concentrated doses intended for animals that weigh much more than a person. The FDA notes, "such high doses can be highly toxic in humans."

The FDA stresses to prevent your COVID risk, "continue to be to wear your mask, stay at least 6 feet from others who don’t live with you, wash hands frequently, and avoid crowds," and The Doctors stress instead of taking a medication usually meant to treat parasites in horses, get vaccinated.

Find out where to get your free COVID-19 vaccine, here or search vaccines.gov, text your ZIP code to 438829, or call 1-800-232-0233 to find locations near you in the U.S.

More: The US Surgeon General Recommendations for Keeping Kids Safe from COVID-19

More: Not Vaccinated? You Are 29 Times as Likely to Be Hospitalized for COVID

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