CHARLESTON, S.C. (WCBD) – People across the United States are turning to a medication called Ivermectin as a potential treatment or preventative measure for COVID-19. Doctors say that is not recommended.
Ivermectin is most commonly used in large farm animals to treat infections caused by parasites. It is FDA approved for use in humans for the same reason but in very small doses. It can also be used in a topical form to treat head lice.
Now, according to data from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, prescriptions are skyrocketing for the drug despite the FDA urging people not to take it to treat COVID-19. During one week in mid-August, the CDC reports over 88,000 prescriptions for ivermectin across the United States.
Dr. Taylor Morrisette of the Medical University of South Carolina says the interest for ivermectin as a potential treatment for COVID-19 came from a lab study that suggested the drug inhibits the replication of SARS-CoV-2, the virus that causes COVID-19. But, more recent research shows a flaw in the original study.
“There’s been subsequent studies that suggest that achieving these concentrations of ivermectin in the human body that were achieved in that lab study, it would take doses much higher than what’s approved for use in humans,” said Dr. Morrisette.
He says MUSC does not use ivermectin in any of its treatment plans for COVID-positive patients.
“Where we stand right now, there’s no valid evidence to show that this drug works or that it’s safe to treat COVID-19,” he said.
One local pharmacist says she has never seen the demand for Ivermectin rise as it has been and rarely if ever, prescribed it to patients during her career as a pharmacist.
“Because of the supply issue, we don’t have anything to offer them,” said Dottie Farfone, owner of Dot’s Pharmacy.
The demand for the drug is so high, Dot’s Pharmacy ran out weeks ago and hasn’t been able to re-stock as the product is on backorder.
“People have not been too polite about the fact that we don’t have the ivermectin,” said Farfone.
Demand is at such a high, people are turning to other sources than pharmacies to try and get a dose of the drug. That includes animal feed stores or tack shops. These stores sell ivermectin over the counter as it is commonly used in farm animals.
“I have a good friend who owns a tack store and she said that they’re completely out of it also,” said Farfone.
She reflects on walking through Tractor Supply Co. and seeing signs urging people not to take doses meant for animals.
“I just couldn’t believe it.”
The doses sold in animal feed stores are much larger and should not be taken by humans.
“So getting these products from animal feed stores can be highly dangerous because they’re formulated for animals that are 1,000 pounds or more,” said Dr. Morrisette.
He and other doctors agree that the best way to stay protected against COVID-19 is to get the vaccine. Pfizer and BionTech’s version of the vaccine is FDA approved.