A B.C. retailer that carries farm and livestock supplies says it’s seeing a surge of people trying to buy an animal anti-parasite medication out of the belief it will protect them against COVID-19.
Ivermectin is used to kill intestinal parasites in horses, cattle and sheep.
It’s also been widely touted in anti-vaccine circles, by Republican politicians and on U.S. right-wing cable news as a COVID-19 curative, despite there being no peer-reviewed evidence to suggest that.
“I don’t understand why people would think a completely untested, unsupported use of a veterinary medicine like Ivermectin could possibly be a be a safer solution than a vaccination which is clearly and obviously correcting the COVID problem,” Kelvin McCulloch, CEO of Buckerfield’s, told Global News.
“It’s astonishing because this is a product to kill parasites in the intestines of large animals, and I don’t know how that could possibly pertain to a virus like COVID.”
McCulloch said Buckerfield’s is not licenced to sell Ivermectin for human use, nor is it interested to do so.
The company has posted signage at all of its locations warning people not to buy it for personal consumption, but to no avail. He said most of his stores are sold out, and they’re having trouble getting more from suppliers.
Health Canada has issued a warning about Ivermectin, noting that it is not authorized to treat COVID-19, and that there could be serious health risks from consuming the veterinary version of the medicine intended for animals.
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.
Health Canada says no manufacturer has made a submission for the review of Ivermectin as a COVID-19 treatment in Canada.
Read more: Calgary feed shop forced to hide Ivermectin livestock dewormer being touted as COVID-19 cure
At high doses, the drug can cause vomiting, diarrhea, low blood pressure, dizziness, seizures, and even comas or death, according to Health Canada.
“The dose we would give humans is three milligrams and six milligrams and the doses you can get for cows and cattle is 60, 100, 200, many, many fold higher,” said Dr. Jodie Dionne with the University of Alabama at Birmingham.
In the U.S., improper use of the drug has become enough of an issue that the Food and Drug Administration took to Twitter to warn people, “You are not a horse. You are not a cow. Seriously, y’all. Stop it.”
The Mississippi state Department of Health recently said 60 per cent of poisoning calls it was getting were related to human use of animal Ivermectin.
Beyond the potential harmful effects of consuming animal formulations of Ivermectin, McCulloch said the shortage is causing real headaches for farmers and ranchers who need the product for their animals.
“At this time of year in particular there’s a need for it because the animals are coming off pasture and they’re carrying parasites, and they need to be medicated for the winter,” he said.
“We’re not interested in selling it to people for COVID, we think it’s nonsensical and dangerous — we want it for the animals. And above all else, we didn’t want to find ourselves in the situation where we don’t have any and this is the time when the animals need it.”
McCulloch said his staff have already faced an increase in abusive customers unhappy with the province’s mask mandate, and that people seeking Ivermectin are adding to the stress.
He wants the province to do more to protect front-line workers who find themselves left to enforce COVID-19 policies or access to products like Ivermectin.
With files from Sean Boynton
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