FDA: Don’t use horse de-wormer to treat Covid-19

JASPER COUNTY, Mo. – There’s a particular product that Erin Woody at Midwest Ag Supply just can’t keep on the shelves.

“I’ve gone from selling probably four to five tubes a week, to upwards of 15 to 20,” says Woody.

Ivermectin, an anti-parasitic drug, is selling as fast as Woody can get it stocked. And she says it’s not the normal customers that are buying it.

“If they’re not able to answer some of those basic questions on how many heads of cattle they have, what size of cattle they’re using it on, I get a gut feeling instantly that they’re using it for off-label reasons,” explains Woody.

The drug is currently trending on social media, sparked by the thought that it is an effective treatment for COVID-19. While Woody doesn’t know for sure that people are buying it to try and treat COVID, she says the demand came in waves: Last fall, when the virus was most prevalent in the area, and right now, as the delta variant spreads in the 4-states.

“It’s actually a frequent question we get asked,” says Dr. Farrin Manian, Chairman of the Department of Medicine at Mercy Hospital St. Louis.

Dr. Manian explains that there are two versions of the drug. The version for use in people can only be obtained with a prescription. Both of them are antiparasitics. The version for use in people is FDA approved to treat certain conditions, but Covid-19 is not one of them. The FDA also says, “The FDA has not reviewed data to support use of ivermectin in COVID-19 patients to treat or to prevent COVID-19.” The FDA also explains the drug can interact negatively with other medications, such as blood thinners.

“The solid science that we base strong recommendations on is just not there right now,” says Dr. Manian. “To be honest, if it shows that it really works, and again based on a solid scientific methodology, then I think that we would definitely be on firmer ground to say that we should use it.”

Manian explains there are large clinical trials underway in other countries. Until results from those studies are released, he won’t recommend it for his patients. The increased demand for the livestock version is what has health officials concerned though. The FDA explains that using the version purchased in farm supply stores can be dangerous since the dosage for animals is much higher than that for people.

“It is a nerve active agent, which means that it actually works on parasites by paralyzing their muscles,” says Dr. Manian. “So it, in very large doses, certainly can be potentially neurotoxic.”

Several stores in the area say they’ve seen a big increase in demand, causing prices to increase and availability for farmers to decrease.

“It drops my sales with my cattle producers when I can’t get it in stock because they can’t come here and purchase it directly. Or they have to order such a large quantity that they’ll never use it in five years,” says Woody.

The FDA has authorized the use of Remdesivir, an antiviral drug, to treat adults and certain young patients who are hospitalized with COVID-19. The FDA has also authorized the use of certain monoclonal antibodies in patients who are at high risk of hospitalization because of COVID-19.

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