INDIANAPOLIS — Ivermectin is a drug used to treat parasites in large farm animals and sometimes used for humans, but only when prescribed by a doctor.
In a statement, the CDC confirmed a rise in the use of ivermectin by people trying to treat COVID-19.
“During the COVID-19 pandemic, ivermectin dispensing by retail pharmacies has increased, as has use of veterinary formulations available over the counter but not intended for human use. FDA has cautioned about the potential risks of use for prevention or treatment of COVID-19.”
Dr. Blake Froberg with the Indiana Poison Center said they’ve gotten 14 calls from people in the Indianapolis area in the last year who have taken ivermectin and gotten bad side effects from it. Froberg said a majority of these cases have come in the last few months.
”We haven’t seen huge, huge numbers as far as call volume and luckily, at least to my knowledge, we haven’t seen anyone with any real severe effects,” Froberg said.
Nevertheless, Froberg said this is still concerning and that the side effects are not good.
“Typically with a lower exposure to ivermectin, one of the more common side effects you’ll see are gastrointestinal side effects, so vomiting or stomach ache would be typical,” he said.
There are two ways someone could get their hands on ivermectin. A doctor can prescribe it to someone for its traditional use in humans, or someone could go buy the animal version from tractor supply stores.
Michelle Soruco uses ivermectin on some of her horses. She owns Southport Equestrian Center.
”It’s crazy, absolutely crazy. There’s no point in taking ivermectin that’s used to kill parasites to kill a virus,” she said.
She said she has seen less ivermectin on store shelves and said people using it to try and treat COVID-19 are part of the reason why.
”Usually you do a deworming after the first freeze in Indiana,” Soruco said. “Okay, are we even going to be able to get horse dewormer for our horses?”
Tractor Supply Company is one local store where people can buy ivermectin for animals. A Tractor Supply Company spokesperson said stores are now putting signs out to warn customers against taking ivermectin themselves.
“The anti-parasite drug Ivermectin has not been approved by the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) for use in treating or preventing COVID-19 in humans. The product sold in our stores is only suitable for animals and is clearly labeled as such,” the warning reads.
A Tractor Supply Company spokesperson said they began putting signs like these out in August when customers started to ask “about the product and its recommended use.”
Dr. Tyler Stepsis with Eskenazi Health said the ivermectin used on animals and the one prescribed to people are essentially the same drug, but the amount of how much the drug would be used is much different.
“Usually the dosage used in humans is much, much less than used in other animals,” Stepsis said.
On top of that, Stepsis said ivermectin will not help treat COVID-19.
”Ivermectin is a treatment in both humans and in animals but it’s not a treatment for COVID-19,” he said.
Stepsis said the movement behind ivermectin as a COVID-19 treatment is fueled by misinformation.
” There are so many sources out there that are pointing to pseudo studies or studies that have been disproven at the very best and sometimes just made up ‘gobblygook’ at the worst,” Stepsis said.
Suruco said she’s worried about people taking too much ivermectin and suffering from the consequences.
”I could see people not reading the directions and taking the tube or taking too much,” she said.
Froberg said if you’ve taken ivermectin and begin to experience side effects you can call Indiana Poison Control at 1-800-222-1222 and they’ll help you with the next steps to keep yourself safe and healthy.