Livestock Dewormer Ivermectin Not Approved for Human Consumption

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The elevation of COVID-19 cases in Rutherford County and the surrounding region has created a situation where citizens are desperate for answers and have resorted to “home remedies” to treat symptoms from being infected with this terrible virus. One of these home remedies is the use of ivermectin – an FDA-approved broad spectrum drug for use in animals and humans to treat internal parasites, but NOT approved to treat COVID-19. The purpose of this article is help make you aware that the human and animal formulations are vastly different and to caution you from going to your local agricultural supply store or on-line outlets and purchasing the animal formulation in order to treat yourself at home for COVID-19.

I visited a local farm supply store in the county last week and overheard a conversation by an employee indicating that they couldn’t keep cattle de-wormer on the shelf because people were using it to treat COVID-19. I had heard bits and pieces of information like this from across the country over the last 8 months, but hadn’t heard of it happening locally. That prompted me to look into it further and I found that several states’ emergency rooms and poison control centers have seen an increase in calls and visits with people self-medicating with the livestock formulation of ivermectin.

The problem with human consumption of over-the-counter animal formulations is that these products are specifically designed and formulated for animals – not for humans. All of the labels on these products state “NOT FOR HUMAN CONSUMPTION” and may advise a call to poison control if ingested. These warnings are not because ivermectin is unsafe. Human formulations of ivermectin are prescribed by doctors and used around the world to treat humans with internal parasites. FDA has approved this drug for use, but only for the approved purpose and intended recipient as specified on the label. Livestock formulations are at a different concentration level than human formulations and contain other inactive ingredients that have not been proven safe for use in humans through appropriate trials. In addition, self-medicating with ivermectin may interfere with the effects of other life-saving drugs many people are taking daily. Taking any medication, human ivermectin formulations included, requires close consultation with your physician and pharmacist.

Currently, our best defenses against disease are to practice good social distancing, avoid crowds, wash our hands frequently and keep them away from our face, eat a healthy diet, get adequate rest, and to consider receiving a COVID-19 vaccine. Scientists are constantly working to find solutions to the problems our country has faced and if it is determined that ivermectin is the treatment of choice for COVID-19, human health providers will have access to adequate quantities of the drug to treat infected patients. One of the many benefits of ivermectin formulated for human consumption is that it is widely available around the world, so there is no need to go out and buy animal ivermectin formulated products to use as your home remedy. As with any medication of this nature that you are considering, I strongly encourage you to consult with your physician to ensure that you can safely ingest the medication and that you are aware of potential side effects.