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Health officials warn against buying medicine meant for animals to treat COVID-19

Published: Aug. 27, 2021 at 7:39 PM AKDT
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ANCHORAGE, Alaska (KTUU) - Alaska health officials are warning against what seems to be a growing dangerous trend: people taking a medication meant for horses and other livestock to treat or prevent COVID-19.

Ivermectin is a drug primarily used to treat worms and other parasites in animals, and, in much smaller doses, in humans. The U.S. Food and Drug Administration has not approved it to treat COVID-19 in people, and in fact has warned against that, but that hasn’t stopped people from buying the veterinary grade medicine straight off the shelves, according to Alaska Mill and Feed Manager John Hamilton.

“Our suppliers are 100% sold out right now so we don’t have any more coming in anytime soon,” Hamilton said.

The craze is being fueled by people who claim the drug is an alternative to getting vaccinated or a viable treatment for COVID-19. Kenai Peninsula Borough Charlie Pierce recently promoted the drug during a show on KSRM Radio as something to try and look into further.

“Ivermectin is very inexpensive medicine,” Pierce said on the radio show. “It’s really very inexpensive and applied or administered with some other vitamins that are readily available as well … the results from it has been very favorable based on the studies I’ve looked at.”

Dr. Coleman Cutchins, a pharmacist with the Alaska Department of Health and Social Services, disagreed on a recent virtual public science presentation put on by the state health department.

“There are a few ongoing trials, they may show that it’s beneficial, but so far all the trials that have been done have shown that it is not a beneficial treatment,” he said. “We are going to continue to watch it. If the trials (that) are ongoing show it is beneficial, then I’m sure the Infectious Disease Society of America and me myself will come out and tell you that data has changed.”

The FDA has not approved the use of Ivermectin for treating COVID-19 in humans. In that same virtual presentation, Alaska Chief Medical Officer Dr. Anne Zink said people who take the large doses intended for animals are putting their health at risk.

“We have had nationwide people who required hospitalization because of the toxicity of Ivermectin,” Zink said. “So it is not benign to take it. It has risks associated with it, and if you are deferring other treatment that is also a risk.”

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