Louisiana's public health officer pleads: 'Don't take horse meds' to treat COVID'
Louisiana's Public Health Officer Dr. Joe Kanter and Republican Commissioner of Agriculture Mike Strain are warning people against taking a drug designed to deworm large livestock as a treatment for COVID-19.
Social media medicine has fueled a run on ivermectin at farm and feed supply stores, but Kanter and Strain, a large animal veterinarian, said it's a misinformation campaign that could be dangerous.
Kanter, in particular, has been tweeting "Don't take horse meds" for the past week, and late Wednesday he issued an official statement.
"I know people are concerned about the delta variant and our recent COVID surge and may have questions," Kanter said. "Please beware of misinformation online including around ivermectin.
"The (Food and Drug Administration) has not approved or authorized ivermectin for preventing or treating cases of COVID-19. If you want to prevent COVID-19, get the COVID-19 vaccine. All three vaccines are safe and effective, all three were authorized by the FDA, and Pfizer was just approved by the FDA for those 16 years old and above."
There are human uses for ivermectin, either to treat parasitic worms or, in a topical form, to combat head lice and the skin condition rosacea, but it should only be prescribed by a doctor who treats humans and isn't a COVID-19 remedy, Kanter and Strain said.
"Don't do it," Strain said in an interview with USA Today Network. "There's no peer reviewed scientific evidence it works. It's risky. For people a single dose can be toxic.
"It's for internal parasites and lice and scabies. It has not been shown to have any clinical efficacy in humans for COVID-19."
Kanter said the FDA has received multiple reports of patients who have required medical support and been hospitalized after self-medicating with ivermectin intended for horses.
Large doses of ivermectin, such as those intended for horses, can be highly toxic in humans and cause serious harm, he said. Ivermectin preparations for animals are very different from those approved for humans.
In neighboring Mississippi, the State Department of Health issued a recent alert that said that at least 70% of recent calls to the state poison control center were related to people who ingested a version of the drug that is formulated to treat parasites in cows and horses.
The FDA recently tweeted: "You are not a horse. You are not a cow. Seriously, y'all. Stop it."
USA Today contributed to this report.
Greg Hilburn covers state politics for the USA TODAY Network of Louisiana. Follow him on Twitter @GregHilburn1.