FDA Warns Against Ivermectin as COVID Treatment—Tractor Supply, Other Farm Stores See Shortages
A livestock dewormer known as ivermectin has been hard to find in farm stores due to "COVID truthers" touting it as a supposed cure-all against the pandemic.
While ivermectin is commonly used to treat cows, horses, and other farm animals, the root of this antiparasitic being used as a treatment for COVID traces back to April of 2020 when Australian researchers published a study claiming that ivermectin could "kill the coronavirus within 48 hours when used in large doses in laboratory settings."
Merck—the company that manufactures ivermectin—would later warn that the studies pushing the antiparasitic as a COVID cure "had a concerning lack of safety data."
According to Slate, the recent rise in COVID cases due to the Delta variant is causing some people to look toward the drug as a cure, but there are still far more questions and concerns than evidence that would support ivermectin as such.
The evidence often cited by its proponents comes from questionable studies—one of the largest studies in support of the drug as a COVID treatment was recently withdrawn over ethical concerns, and a review of other studies by the medical research organization Cochrane concluded against the use of ivermectin.
Since it's become harder for people to file prescriptions for ivermectin from "shady online doctors" along with a crackdown from pharmacists due to "a potentially problematic increase in ivermectin requests" coming in doses that were often too large from doctor's that were difficult to reach if they reachable at all.
This has prompted people who are hellbent on ivermectin to track down the animal version, commonly available at your local farm stores. Often coming in paste form for horses, a "drench" for sheep, and the injectable variety for pigs and cows.
Numerous Facebook groups have been credited as the source of strangers offering guidance on ivermectin that would be considered questionable at best and dangerously lethal at its worst. A quick Facebook search yields an alarming variety of information when it comes to dosages, side effects, and overall usage for the livestock dewormer.
Amazon had to remove comments due to their violation of policy after people hyped up an apple-flavored horse paste with a load of false information related to COVID and the treatment of the virus. Some people commented about using the paste as a "preventative medicine" and that "they" wanted to keep it a secret from the public while others were clever to avoid mentioning the term COVID or any similar term to describe the virus.
The reviews referenced violate our policy and have been removed. We want Amazon customers to shop with confidence knowing that the reviews they read are authentic and relevant. We have clear policies for both reviewers and selling partners that prohibit abuse of our community features.
Although just about every proponent of ivermectin will defend the use of the antiparasitic as a bonafide cure for COVID, there is one factor that simply cannot be debated and that is the alarming increase in calls to poison control centers from all over the country due to people overdosing on the animal drug.
Animal ivermectin is not safe for humans "at all" and can even be deadly if used improperly. Both the Food and Drug Administration and the World Health Organization have explicitly laid out guidelines against the use of ivermectin for COVID purposes.
While there are approved uses for ivermectin in people and animals, it is not approved for the prevention or treatment of COVID-19. People should never take animal drugs, as the FDA has only evaluated their safety and effectiveness in the particular species for which they are labeled. Using these products in humans could cause serious harm.
The FDA even posted a very blunt tweet advising against the use of the drug in terms that cut right to the chase.
Still, people have rushed out to farm stores to snatch up every bit of the nonprescription ivermectin they could find, prompting retailers like Tractor Supply to post disclaimers in their stores in an attempt to "curb" the frenzied purchases.
Other farm stores have yanked the product altogether in order to "save anti-vaxxers and COVID truthers from themselves."
This becomes a problem for people who work with animals and livestock as they depend on ivermectin to protect them. Slate says that one animal rehabber in northeast Maryland has had to "adjust" how she buys the product.
We use it for mange … mainly in squirrels. But we also use it when wildlife comes in with maggots … which is critical to take care of right away. The hardship comes when you get an animal in with maggots and you run to your farm supply store and they don’t have [ivermectin] on the shelves anymore because of all of this. Then you have to resort to other methods, but it takes anywhere from three to five days when ordered online to actually get it and that in certain circumstances puts an animal in jeopardy more so than it already was.
With FDA approval of the Pfizer COVID vaccine earlier today, it may give a few more people confidence to choose an approved treatment over an unproven antiparasitic made for animals, but only time will tell.
In either case, make sure you're consulting with your doctor or general practitioner before taking any medication—COVID-related or not.