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The premier resource for hospital professionals from Relias Media, the trusted source for healthcare information and continuing education.

“You Are Not a Cow”: FDA Reiterates Warning Against Human Consumption of Ivermectin for Livestock

By Jill Drachenberg, Editor, Relias Media

As cases of the COVID-19 delta variant soar and vaccine skepticism lingers, some people are turning to unproven methods of preventing or treating COVID-19. The livestock anti-parasitic drug ivermectin is in the spotlight, with people rushing to feed stores to buy versions of the drug manufactured for cattle, sheep, and horses.

The Food and Drug Administration (FDA) is repeating its warning to the public not to consume medications meant for animals.

“You are not a horse. You are not a cow. Seriously, y’all. Stop it,” the agency tweeted over the weekend, including a link to a fact sheet dated March 5 that explains why consuming animal medication is a bad idea.

“For one thing, animal drugs are often highly concentrated because they are used for large animals like horses and cows, which can weigh a lot more than we do — a ton or more. Such high doses can be highly toxic in humans,” the agency wrote in its fact sheet. Moreover, FDA reviews drugs not just for safety and effectiveness of the active ingredients, but also for the inactive ingredients. Many inactive ingredients found in animal products aren’t evaluated for use in people.”

Despite these warnings, the FDA noted it has received “many reports” of hospitalizations due to consumption of animal ivermectin. Poison Control centers in Alabama, Mississippi, and Arkansas reported significant increases in calls about ivermectin overdoses.

Ivermectin tablets and topical treatments are available for humans, but are not approved for treating or preventing COVID-19. Some clinical trials testing its effectiveness are underway. “The FDA has not reviewed data to support use of ivermectin in COVID-19 patients to treat or to prevent COVID-19; however, some initial research is underway,” the agency noted. The World Health Organization also noted the off-label use of ivermectin is “inconclusive” and should only be used within clinical trials.

The FDA recommends people stick with the tried-and-true methods of preventing the spread of COVID-19: “[E]ffective ways to limit the spread of COVID-19 continue to be to wear your mask, stay at least 6 feet from others who don’t live with you, wash hands frequently, and avoid crowds,” they wrote. And, as always, COVID-19 vaccines are readily available and free.