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People are still taking a dangerous drug meant to kill worms in farm animals in an attempt to cure COVID-19—even after months of doctors and public health officials warning them to stop.
The drug is Ivermectin, an antiparasitic drug typically used on horses, and it became falsely known as a COVID-19 therapy when conspiracy groups started swearing by its use as a self-treatment drug. Late last year, the Dr. Pierre Kory, founder of the outspoken Front Line Covid-19 Critical Care Alliance, called it a “wonder drug” and pushed officials to authorize its use against the pandemic.
The latest hospitalizations include a Missouri man who was admitted to a state hospital after taking animal-grade ivermectin. His condition is unknown, but doctors confirmed he was hospitalized for ivermectin toxicity, according to the Mississippi Free Press.
Following the poisoning, Mississippi State Health officials held an online conference meant to educate the public and emphasized that people should not take medicine meant for farm animals to self-treat COVID-19.
“You know, for the life of me, I don’t get it,” said MSDH Communications Director Liz Sharlot. “You have a vaccine that’s safe and effective. And yet people, as opposed to getting the vaccine, want to go after these kinds of things.”
Ivermectin can be purchased at animal feed stores and online shops like TractorSupply.com. It’s been flaunted as a “cure-all” to COVID-19 in conspiracy groups. In some cases, people are taking it as a preventative measure.
All of this is false, as the animal version of ivermectin is toxic to human beings, especially at the levels self-curers are taking it. In fact, earlier this year, the Centers for Disease Control has seen an uptick in calls surrounding COVID self-cures and ivermectin has played a large role in this spike.
“Your problem is now that the drug is so far into mainstream culture with YouTube videos and conspiracy sites trying to push this drug in really high doses,” said Dr. Zain Chagla, an infectious disease physician and associate professor at McMaster University in Ontario.. “It’s almost a deja vu moment from when the pandemic started and we started using hydroxychloroquine and people started going to aquarium stores and overdosing on it.”
While there are versions of ivermectin that are intended for human-use, the FDA has issued warnings against the drug because of the growing and misguided popularity of its use for self-COVID cures. They warn that human-use versions of the drug are applicable to highly-specific ailments like some caused by parasitic worms, or even head lice.
Ingesting any prescribed dosage of the drug, however, is extremely dangerous, and one should never buy ivermectin for human treatment at, say, a veterinary store—go to a pharmacy and get doctoral approval, the FDA says.
“There’s a lot of misinformation around, and you may have heard that it’s okay to take large doses of ivermectin,” the administration said in a consumer update on the drug. “That is wrong.”