Omaha stores low on ivermectin after false claims horse de-worming product can treat COVID-19
OMAHA, Neb. (WOWT) - Despite warnings from doctors and public health officials, people continue to purchase and wrongfully use Ivermectin due to false belief that it will cure them of COVID-19.
Ivermectin, an anti-parasitic drug most well known for treating animals, has been flying off store shelves — including those in Omaha — for several weeks. Local stores say the increase in demand is making it hard for them and their suppliers to keep up.
“We order it every week,” says Steve Probst, who owns Northwest Feed and Grain. “Usually, it gets back-ordered; but every once in a while we’ll get some in.”
While ivermectin has been approved for use in humans to treat some skin conditions and parasitic worms, it has not been approved by the Centers for Disease Control or the Food and Drug Administration to treat COVID-19, despite claims it may help. The FDA issued a warning last month about the drug last month.
“A lot of people come in and ask for it, sometimes we’ll ask them what they’re using it for in general ask ‘how many horses do you have?’ and you’ll be able to tell pretty quick if they’re a horse owner or not,” Probst said.
The ivermectin products people are buying off the shelves is only intended for use in animals like horses and cows, and is much different than the Ivermectin that is approved for humans. The CDC also noted last month that false claims the drug could be used to treat COVID-19 were driving up prescriptions.
“Medications formulated for animals are typically a higher concentrated dose, and if you think about just the size of the animal, a horse is a much bigger animal than a sheep, and different things are formulated in a different way so there are definite risks for more side effects when taking a larger dose than intended for humans in terms of consumption,” says the local poison control education coordinator Angie Pasho.
Yet, the animal de-worming medication continues to sell out in many places.
“I had one person say ‘I was just told to come buy some,’ so I don’t know who sent them or why they came, but obviously it seemed like they weren’t a horse owner,” Probst told 6 News. “We always remind them this is for animal use only, and you know, we can’t mandate and tell them what they can and can’t use it for, so, but we can kind of tell.”
Nationwide, the number of calls to poison control about Ivermectin has increased, including locally.
Pasho said since the start of the pandemic, they’ve taken 30 calls about the product, and only a few of those calls have been about accidental exposures.
“We did have a little increase in August,” she said. “We had four calls in August related for ivermectin use in correlation to COVID-19 and six total calls in the last 90 days.”
Between 2015 and 2020, the local poison control center had taken just 10 total calls related to Ivermectin.
Other stores, like Tractor Supply Co., are seeing massive increases in demand too. Stores, including locations in Omaha, have been forced to issue a warning alongside the product.
“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. We have signs to remind our guests that these products are for animal use only.”
While studies are underway in the U.S. and overseas to determine whether the drug has any effect on preventing or blunting COVID-19, top U.S. professional groups for doctors and pharmacists have appealed for an “immediate end” to the drug’s use outside of research.
For more information about uses of Ivermectin, visit the FDA website about the product, or talk with your doctor.
The Associated Press contributed to this report.
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