The words “horse dewormer” have been showing up in a lot of news headlines recently, and it’s in connection to COVID-19 symptoms and treatments. Of course—like many Americans—after seeing this, I immediately had questions.
Are people really taking a horse dewormer to help with their COVID-19 symptoms? If so, why would they do that? Is this all misinformation and fake news? Let’s dive into this a bit deeper.
The History Of Ivermectin
What is being referred to by many news outlets as “horse dewormer” is actually a medication known as Ivermectin. It’s been around since 1975 when it was discovered by Satoshi Omura and William Campbell, who won the Nobel Prize in Physiology of Medicine.
Often, diseases are spread by parasites. Ivermectin actually kills parasites, which makes it an anti-parasite instead of an antiviral medication. However, the Journal of Antibiotics described it as a “wonder drug” because for more than 30 years, it’s been used to treat people all over the world for infections like scabies, river blindness, threadworm, and rosacea.
According to Nature.com, Ivermectin is prescribed to more than 250 million people annually. During the pandemic, researchers from various countries have been studying Ivermectin as both a COVID-19 treatment and a preventive against the virus.
Yes, there is a version of Ivermectin that is used as a horse dewormer. What’s causing confusion is that the strong, concentrated veterinary form of the medication is what’s most often used in the United States. And lately, veterinary supply store shelves have been pretty empty because some people are apparently using that form of the medication to treat COVID-19.
Even though Ivermectin is used by people all over the world—and is required for immigrants coming to the United States—it’s mostly used in America to deworm horses, cows, and pets.
Is Taking Ivermectin Safe?
If someone takes a form of Ivermectin that was intended for animals, it can be hazardous to their health. The same can be said for taking large amounts of the medicine that was intended for humans.
According to the FDA, if a human overdoses on ivermectin, it can potentially cause nausea, vomiting, diarrhea, hypotension (low blood pressure), allergic reactions (itching and hives), dizziness, seizures, coma, and—in rare cases—death.
Does Ivermectin Work Against COVID-19?
Merck—the manufacturer of Ivermectin—said that their drug doesn’t work against COVID-19. But it should be pointed out that their patent expired in 1996, which means they don’t make any money from it anymore. And, in December 2020 they received $356 million from the government to create a COVID vaccine.
The FDA warned via Twitter that Ivermectin was not approved for use against COVID-19. They also made it clear that taking large doses could cause serious harm.
“You are not a horse,” the FDA’s tweet read. “You are not a cow. Seriously, y’all. Stop it.”
According to the New York Times, the clinical studies so far haven’t indicated that Ivermectin is effective in treating COVID-19. However, there’s been very limited data on this subject.
Health experts from various organizations have called for “an immediate end to the prescribing, dispensing and use of ivermectin for the prevention and treatment of Covid-19 outside of a clinical trial.”
Doctors Are Prescribing Ivermectin
Anecdotal evidence indicates that some have found success treating COVID-19 with Ivermectin when prescribed by a doctor and taken as directed. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) reported that almost 90,000 prescriptions for ivermectin were being written per week in mid-August.
People like podcasting giant Joe Rogan have shared on social media that doctors are prescribing Ivermectin as part of their treatment for COVID-19, and within three days, Rogan says he was virus-free.
Rogan explained that after speaking with Dr. Pierre Kory—whose research found great efficacy with Ivermectin in treating COVID-19—he decided to give the medicine a try as part of his own treatment.
“He’s not the only doctor who told me to take it,” Rogan revealed. “Multiple doctors told me to take it… It was found to be a blocker of viral replicase proteins and human TMPRSS2.”
The Bottom Line
Yes, there have been reports of people taking the veterinary form of Ivermectin to help with COVID-19 symptoms. But, it looks like the numbers are relatively low. And that’s not what doctors are prescribing to their human patients.
Merck and the FDA have made it clear there is no proof that Ivermectin will help with COVID-19 symptoms. However, doctors are prescribing it because it is safe when used as directed, and some people have reportedly seen good results.
When it comes down to it, this is a discussion to have with your doctor. Researchers have yet to find a successful treatment for COVID symptoms that the government has endorsed. Vaccines may be the answer for prevention, but they don’t do you any good when you have the virus and are experiencing symptoms.
If you test positive for COVID-19, the best thing to do is go straight to your doctor to set up a treatment plan that works for you and your specific health situation. But definitely avoid the veterinary supply store shelves when shopping for your personal medication.