PHOENIX — A livestock de-wormer known as Ivermectin has recently surged in popularity as some people claim it treats COVID-19 symptoms.
The Western Ranchman, a Phoenix feed and supply shop, has continuously been selling out of the drug for the past six months, according to store manager Joe Robinson. They were just able to get a few boxes back in supply this week.
“The horse people are usually our normal customers anyways, so we know when they’re buying it and you just see the other people and you know they don’t have horses,” said Robinson. “They’re not buying just one, they’re buying multiple tubes of it.”
Robinson said they usually sell a box containing about 12 of the tubes of paste a month on average. Lately, that number has gone up to about 100 or more. He said these first-time customers coming in aren’t just buying up the type for horses either -- they’ll grab anything labeled Ivermectin.
“We do carry an injectable - a sheep drench. It’s all labeled Ivermectin,” Robinson said. “They see it, they grab it, they don’t have a clue what they’re getting into.”
ABC15 Health Insider Dr. Janice Johnston with Redirect Health said you actually can use a human-approved version of the drug on humans in some cases.
“In humans, we use it to treat parasitic type of infections,” Dr. Johnston said. “So think of, like, roundworms and sometimes head lice and things like that.”
COVID-19, however, is not a parasite – it’s a virus. Currently, the FDA is advising against using Ivermectin for the treatment of COVID-19, according to Dr. Johnston.
She said some smaller lab studies have shown the drug could perhaps have some positive effect on COVID-19, but those studies have been done in a petri dish, not on a person.
“The dosing to reach that level in a human body needs to be substantially higher,” Dr. Johnston said. “What we are concerned about are the toxic effects of it."
Those toxic effects could result in nausea, vomiting, diarrhea, or worse. Still, some people have been taking the risk.
“We’ve had a few of our customers who swear by it,” said Robinson. “Myself? I wouldn’t take it. There’s no way I’d take it myself.”
"For one thing, animal drugs are often highly concentrated because they are used for large animals like horses and cows, which weigh a lot more than we do—a ton or more. Such high doses can be highly toxic in humans. Moreover, the FDA reviews drugs not just for safety and effectiveness of the active ingredients, but also for the inactive ingredients. Many inactive ingredients found in products for animals 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."
Here’s what Dr. Johnston does recommend you do if you think you have COVID-19:
- Get tested to confirm you actually do have COVID-19
- You can take supplements like vitamins C and D, and Zinc to boost your immune system.
- Quarantine in your home and monitor your symptoms.
- It’s a good idea to have a pulse oximeter on hand to keep an eye on your oxygen levels. If they dip to the low 90s or lower, Dr. Johnston said it could be a concern.