OKEECHOBEE -- Sales of ivermectin, used to treat parasites in horses, have seen an increase recently according to those who work in area feed stores. While that’s not unusual in the hot Florida summertime, when horses may be plagued with parasites, apparently many of these customers don’t own horses. Instead they are following medical "advice" they found on social media and taking the veterinary product themselves in a hope that it will somehow ward off the COVID-19 virus.
The problem is not confined to rural Florida. Nationwide, the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) has received multiple reports of patients who have required medical support and been hospitalized after self-medicating with ivermectin intended for horses.
The FDA has not approved ivermectin in any form for use in treating or preventing COVID-19 in humans. Ivermectin tablets are approved by the FDA for use in humans at very specific doses for some parasitic worms, and there are topical formulations for head lice and skin conditions like rosacea.
COVID-19 is a virus. Ivermectin is not an anti-viral.
“Taking large doses of this drug is dangerous and can cause serious harm,” warns the FDA.
“If you have a prescription for ivermectin for an FDA-approved use, get it from a legitimate source and take it exactly as prescribed. Never use medications intended for animals on yourself. Ivermectin preparations for animals are very different from those approved for humans.”
According to the FDA, ivermectin tablets are approved by the FDA to treat people with intestinal strongyloidiasis and onchocerciasis, two conditions caused by parasitic worms. In addition, some topical (on the skin) forms of ivermectin are approved to treat external parasites like head lice and for skin conditions such as rosacea.
The FDA also advises that while some forms of ivermectin are used in animals to prevent heartworm disease and certain internal and external parasites, it’s important to note that these products are different from the ones for people, and safe when used as prescribed for animals, only.
The products sold at feed stores to “remove worms and bots” in horses are clearly labeled “NOT FOR USE IN HUMANS. KEEP THIS AND ALL DRUGS OUT OF THE REACH OF CHILDREN.” The label further warns that the product should even not be used on animals that are intended for human consumption.
“There’s a lot of misinformation around, and you may have heard that it’s okay to take large doses of ivermectin. That is wrong,” the FDA website warns.
“Even the levels of ivermectin for approved uses can interact with other medications, like blood-thinners. You can also overdose on ivermectin, which can cause nausea, vomiting, diarrhea, hypotension (low blood pressure), allergic reactions (itching and hives), dizziness, ataxia (problems with balance), seizures, coma and even death.”
Invermectin products for animals are different that those made for people, the FDA website explains. “Animal drugs are often highly concentrated because they are used for large animals like horses and cows, which can weigh a lot more than we do—a ton or more. Such high doses can be highly toxic in humans.
“Moreover, FDA reviews drugs not just for safety and effectiveness of the active ingredients, but also for the inactive ingredients. Many inactive ingredients found in animal products aren’t evaluated for use in people. Or they are included in much greater quantity than those used in people. In some cases, we don’t know how those inactive ingredients will affect how ivermectin is absorbed in the human body.”
The FDA advises the public to consult their doctors before taking any medication, and to only take medications that have been prescribed for them by their physician.