Speed Reads

'You are not a cow'

Mississippi, FDA urge people to stop ingesting livestock deworming medicine to fight COVID-19

Researchers are studying what effects, if any, human versions of the lice and topical skin medicine ivermectin has against COVID-19, but health officials are warning people to stop buying and ingesting versions of the drug meant to deworm cows and horses. Mississippi's Department of Health said last Friday that 70 percent of recent calls to the state poison control center were related to people who ingested livestock ivermectin, which can cause a rash, vomiting, abdominal pain, neurological disorders, severe hepatitis, coma, or even death.

Most of the Mississippi ivermectin calls involved people with mild symptoms, but at least one person has reportedly been hospitalized for ivermectin toxicity. "You wouldn't get your chemotherapy at a feed store," Mississippi State Health Officer Dr. Thomas Dobbs said in a Zoom call last week. "I mean, you wouldn't want to treat your pneumonia with your animal's medication. It can be dangerous to get the wrong doses of medication, especially for something that's meant for a horse or a cow."

"You are not a horse," the Food and Drug Administration tweeted over the weekend, linking to a fact sheet on ivermectin. "You are not a cow. Seriously, y'all. Stop it." The fact sheet noted that ivermectin is not an anti-viral, isn't approved for COVID-19, and it "can interact with other medications, like blood-thinners." 

Mississippi, with 36.8 percent of its population fully vaccinated, has a higher vaccination rate than only one state, Alabama, NPR notes. The rising use of ivermectin tracks a surge in the Delta strain of the coronavirus in the South and other parts of the country. 

Meanwhile, few people are taking advantage of an FDA-approved treatment for early COVID-19 infections, monoclonal antibodies, which "are free to patients" and mostly free of side effects, The Washington Post reports. "They are accessible on an outpatient basis, via a single infusion or four injections. Hospitals, urgent-care centers and even private doctors are authorized to dispense them." 

Former President Donald Trump was treated with Regeneron's monoclonal antibodies when he was hospitalized with a serious COVID-19 infection in October 2020, before they were available to the public, and Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis (R) and Texas Gov. Greg Abbott (R) are pushing the treatment in their states; Abbott even took Regeneron's monoclonal antibodies after testing positive earlier this month. The Biden administration is expanding access to monoclonal antibodies but has focused its public outreach on promoting the vaccines.