The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) has issued a warning to Americans against using a horse dewormer to treat COVID-19 after prescriptions of the drug skyrocketed.
Ivermectin is an anti-parasitic medication commonly used for horses and cows to combat roundworms and other bugs.
In specific cases, it is also used on humans as anti-worm medicine, but in significantly smaller doses than is what used for livestock.
Doctors say it has no capacity to treat viruses such as COVID-19.
However, it has become popularly used by many to treat the virus, and was prescribed 88,000 times in one week, a 24-fold increase over a typical pre-pandemic week, according to the CDC.
Prescriptions of ivermectin, a deworming drug, have increased 24-fold from pre-pandemic levels. The drug has been touted by some conservative figures as a treatment for COVID-19.
Ivermectin can be used in humans, but in much smaller doses than what is used for animals. The drug is a popular horse dewormer, though some are buying veterinarian versions of the drug for use in COVID-19 treatment
‘Clinical trials and observational studies to evaluate the use of ivermectin to prevent and treat COVID-19 in humans have yielded insufficient evidence for the NIH COVID-19 Treatment Guidelines Panel to recommend its use,’ the CDC wrote in a statement on Thursday.
‘Data from adequately sized, well-designed, and well-conducted clinical trials are needed to provide more specific, evidence-based guidance on the role of ivermectin in the treatment of COVID-19.’
Warnings from the CDC, the U.S. Food and Drug Administration and other officials have not prevented Americans from inappropriately using ivermectin.
The drug became popular in some circles after falsehoods about ivermectin’s alleged ability to treat COVID-19 spread on social media after some misinterpreted earlier studies into the drug’s effectiveness.
Some prominent figures in the media have pushed the drug as well.
Between March and this month, Fox News hosts Tucker Carlson, Sean Hannity and Laura Ingraham promoted the drug’s use as an alternative COVID-19 treatment.
In June, Sen Ron Johnson, a Wisconsin Republican, had his YouTube account suspended for posting a video recommending viewers to take ivermectin and hydroxychloroquine as treatments for the virus.
Last week, Mississippi officials reported that 70 percent of recent poison control calls in the state were because of misuse of the dewormer.
Texas has reported a sharp spike in poison calls as well when compared to last year.
In August 2020, Texas reported two poison control calls related to ivermectin, reported WFAA.
This August, the state received 55 calls, a 27-fold increase.
Additionally, Texas Poison Control recorded 23 ivermectin poisoning cases from January to August 2020, compared to 150 this year – a 552 percent increase.
These figures are likely an undercount.
‘America’s Frontline Doctors’ have become a major proponent of ivermectin as a treatment for COVID-19. The group made headlines last year after giving a press conference in front of the Supreme Court denouncing masks and promoting the anti-malaria drug hydoxychloroquine as a Covid treatment
‘It’s sometimes a little difficult for us from the poison center to really grasp, you know why people are using things outside of their intended use,’ Liz Petty of the North Texas Poison Center told WFAA.
‘It definitely could potentially spiral out of control if the misinformation still continues to circulate out in the public.’
People are either acquiring the drug via prescription, or resorting to purchasing versions of the drug made for animals from livestock stores.
One way people are getting prescriptions is through SpeakWithAnMD.com, a website partly run by America’s Frontline Doctors.
The group went viral early in pandemic last year after holding a press conference in front of the Supreme Court making unscientific claims about masks not working, and that anti-malaria drug hydroxychloroquine could cure Covid.
The group is now running the website, which provides online telehealth services, and prescribing the drug to patients, according to an NBC report.
An Arkansas doctor is also under investigation for prescribing the drug to thousands of COVID-19 prison patients.
Some who can not get a prescription are resorting to using versions of the drugs made for animals.
Dosages for animals is much larger than it is for humans, though, causing ivermectin users to potentially overdose on the drug.