Mississippi public health officials warned residents against using ivermectin to treat COVID-19. The state’s poison control center received a surge in calls related to people trying to use the drug, including a version for animals.
The reports from Mississippi represent a growing concern with the FDA reminding people they aren’t cows or horses and shouldn’t be using ivermectin to treat themselves. Highlighting a March 2021 guidance, the FDA stressed people should not take medication without a valid prescription and definitely should not take medication meant for animals.
ABC News reported the state health department stressed that people should not take medications meant for animals.
“Animal drugs are highly concentrated for large animals and can be highly toxic in humans,” read the health alert. “Some of the symptoms associated with ivermectin toxicity include rash, nausea, vomiting, abdominal pain, neurologic disorders, and potentially severe hepatitis requiring hospitalization.”
It’s estimated that 70% of the calls to poison control involved the animal version of ivermectin. The Mississippi Free Press reported at least one hospitalization due to ivermectin earlier this week.
According to ABC News, the state’s top medical official urged people to see a doctor before making medical decisions.
“You wouldn’t get your chemotherapy at a feed store. I mean, you wouldn’t treat your pneumonia with your animal’s medication,” said Dr. Thomas Dobbs, the Mississippi State Health Officer, during a Wednesday press conference. “It can be dangerous to get the wrong doses of medication, especially for something that’s meant for a horse or a cow. We understand the environment we live in, but it’s really important, if people have medical needs, go through your physician or provider.”
Ivermectin is one of several alleged miracle cures for COVID-19. But there isn’t a lot of data to support this claim. Misinformation about miracle treatments has flooded social media since the pandemic’s start. Desperate people, hoping to return to normal, are easy targets for fake cures.
A group of doctors promoting themselves as front-line COVID-19 defenders continue to push the use of ivermectin, despite the lack of evidence around its use during the pandemic. First Draft News, an outlet committed to protecting vulnerable communities from misinformation, issued an update in June 2021 about false claims about ivermectin as a COVID-19 treatment.
A Reuters fact check highlighted several social media posts suggesting people have taken the drug as a preventative measure for COVID-19. Some of these same people reject getting vaccinated, which, unlike ivermectin, has FDA emergency authorization.
A February 2021 analysis by Merck found that available data did not support using ivermectin to treat COVID-19. Studies into the potential for using ivermectin to treat COVID-19 are ongoing.
While there are valid human and animal uses of the drug, treating COVID-19 is not recognized as one of them. And no matter what, experts are clear people should never take medication intended for pets or livestock.
The dosing for people and animals is not the same. And in large quantities, ivermectin can cause serious issues.
“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,” read the FDA guidance. “Such high doses can be highly toxic in humans.”