Health Canada is warning the public not to use the deworming drug ivermectin to treat COVID-19, particularly the version that is used for animals.
The health agency said Tuesday that it has “received concerning reports of the use of veterinary ivermectin to prevent or treat” the novel coronavirus.
“Canadians should never consume health products intended for animals because of the potential serious health dangers posed by them,” the agency said.
Health Canada doesn’t want COVID-19 patients to use the human version of the drug either, which is only authorized to treat parasitic worm infections in people.
But it came out particularly strong against the use of the more highly concentrated veterinary version, which is often used to deworm livestock like horses and pigs.
The agency said veterinary ivermectin can cause serious health problems — especially when ingested at high doses — including “vomiting, diarrhea, low blood pressure, allergic reactions, dizziness, seizures, coma and even death.”
Health Canada did not say how many reports it has received or where in Canada the reports originated from.
But Global News found this week that demand appears to have gone up in Calgary, where at least one feed shop has been forced to remove veterinary ivermectin from its shelves.
The increased demand for ivermectin comes as the deworming drug is being seized on by anti-vaccination critics, Republican politicians and members of right-wing media in the United States as a possible cure or preventative treatment for COVID-19.
No clinical trials have proved ivermectin can cure or treat the coronavirus. The only paper that pushed its efficacy was later retracted due to issues with the data as well as plagiarism concerns.
Earlier this month in Mississippi, the state health department said at least one person had been hospitalized after taking ivermectin. Officials said about 70 per cent of recent calls to poison control were due to ingestion of the veterinary drug.
The U.S. Food and Drug Administration was forced to issue statements urging people not to take the drug, including on social media.
“You are not a horse. You are not a cow. Seriously, y’all. Stop it,” the agency’s tweet read.
— with files from Global’s Chris Jancelewicz and Jacqueline Wilson