Phoenix Livestock Store Keeps Selling Out Of Ivermectin Horse Dewormer
With a fourth wave of infections, more Americans are turning to ivermectin, a cheap drug used to kill worms and other parasites in humans and animals.
Pet and livestock feed supply stores are having trouble keeping the horse dewormer Ivermectin on their shelves. Some incorrectly believe it is a treatment for COVID-19, even though it is unapproved and not recommended.
Amy Jonson, vice president of the Western Ranchman Store, said her Phoenix feed and farm supply store is regularly selling out of ivermectin.
“We’ve sold out of it each week, and then we’re having a hard time getting it as well. Even our manufacturers have been out of it as well," said Jonson.
Jonson says customers will often seek her advice when it comes to using the dewormer as a treatment — advice she says the store will not provide.
"We just tell them that it's only labeled for equine, and we don't give dosage. We tell them that it treats a 1,200 pound horse, and that's really it," Jonson said.
Dr. David Boulware of the University of Minnesota says the drug's side effects are mild at two or even three times the usual human dose. But formulations for farm animals might contain 1,000 times what's safe for humans.
“It’s pretty easy to get into toxic levels,” said Boulware, an infectious disease specialist. “All these concentrated doses that are meant for a 2,000 pound horse can certainly get people sick or hospitalized for toxicity.”
Health experts and medical groups are pushing to stamp out the growing use of a decades-old parasite drug to treat COVID-19, warning that it can cause harmful side effects and that there’s little evidence it helps.
Federal health officials have seen a surge in ivermectin prescriptions this summer, accompanied by worrying increases in reported overdoses. The drug was even given to inmates at a jail in northwest Arkansas for COVID-19, despite federal warnings against that use.
By mid-August U.S. pharmacies were filling 88,000 weekly prescriptions for the medication, a 24-fold increase from pre-COVID-19 levels, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Meanwhile, U.S. poison control centers have seen a five-fold increase in emergency calls related to the drug, with some incidents requiring hospitalization.
Ivermectin has been promoted by Republican lawmakers, conservative talk show hosts and some doctors, amplified via social media to millions of Americans who remain resistant to getting vaccinated. It has also been widely used in other countries, including India and Brazil.
Last week, the top U.S. professional groups for doctors and pharmacists appealed for an “immediate end” to the drug’s use outside of research.