LAS VEGAS (KTNV) — You are not a horse. The Food and Drug Administration felt the need to remind Americans of that on Twitter after recent reports of people taking an animal dewormer in an effort to treat or prevent COVID-19.
The drug is called Ivermectin and it's primarily intended to treat parasitic worms in animals. It started gathering human interest after a research article was recently released describing the effect of ivermectin on SARS-CoV-2. But that research was done in a laboratory setting and the FDA strongly recommends against human consumption of ivermectin at this time.
But that's not stopping people from trying to get their hands on Ivermectin here in the Las Vegas valley.
At V & V Tack and Feed, they normally stock and sell Ivermectin for use on horses. But right now, they're completely sold out of the horse dewormer, and store associate Shelly Smith suspects a lot of her customers aren't using it as intended.
"I had a gentleman come in, and he was an older gentleman. He told me that his wife wanted him to be on the Ivermectin plan. I immediately brought him over here, because at that time I had this sign hung up, and I told him this isn't safe for you to take. And he says, 'Well, we've been taking it and my only side effect is I can't see in the morning.' That's a big side effect, so you probably shouldn't take it," said Smith.
Smith says the demand for the dewormer started increasing months ago, so she decided to put out a warning sign next to the Ivermectin.
"The first sign came about several months ago when you started seeing articles about ivermectin treating COVID. So when I was ordering my Ivermectin, I noticed our distributors had that [warning], so I figured let me hang one too just to let people know, 'do not take this,'" said Smith.
Smith says the demand for the drug has continued to increase in recent weeks, and she's been receiving 4 or 5 customer calls a day inquiring about Ivermectin. That's why Smith hung up a second sign, now requiring customers to present a picture of their horse before they can buy Ivermectin.
"I don't want people taking Ivermectin horse wormer because it's horse wormer. You need to prove to me that you have a horse in order for me to sell you this product because you should not be taking this product. This is not for humans to take. This is to treat parasites in horses," said Smith.
Dr. AJ Manship at Desert Pines Equine Center would concur. He doesn't recommend any humans take Ivermectin and most animals for that matter.
"It can have a lot of serious consequences in people and actually in some veterinary species as well, especially if the correct dose is not administered. In animals, we saw a lot of neurologic diseases, so seizures, coma, death if it's overdosed. A lot of people that own shepherd dogs will be familiar with this. They're very sensitive to this drug and it can kill them. Any time these drugs are used in an unintended manner, there's a really high likelihood of complication and it's just not safe," said Dr. Manship.
One of the repercussions of people buying up all the Ivermectin is that horse owners now have none to give their horses. Shelly Smith says she can't find a single supplier who has Ivermectin in stock right now, and she has no guarantee that will change anytime soon.