Demand skyrockets for ivermectin in Florida; poison control spikes

Published: August 31, 2021 6:15 PM EDT
Updated: August 31, 2021 6:23 PM EDT

Demand is skyrocketing for a livestock drug. More people are buying Ivermectin from feed stores to treat COVID-19.

Florida Poison Control Centers is treating a spike in cases related to the drug after people experienced dangerous side effects.

The drug is made as a deworming medicine for livestock, not for human use.

Ivermectin, a drug approved by the FDA to treat lice and parasite infections, is flying off the shelves at Cypress Pharmacy in south Fort Myers.

“Probably sold more in the last two months than we did in the last five years,” said Pharmacist T.J. DePaola of Cypress Pharmacy.

DePaola told us people aren’t buying Ivermectin to treat those things.

“When you’re treating scabies or bed bugs, it’s a 1-to-2-day treatment,” DePaola said. “The COVID treatment that they’re using now, they’re using a loading dose over one day, and they’re doing it up to 12 weeks weekly.”

While some doctors in Southwest Florida will write prescriptions for the over-the-counter version of ivermectin, others, including Dr. Rebekah Bernard and Stephanie Stovall, are not.

“There’s really no evidence that it is effective for the treatment of COVID-19,” Bernard said. “If we thought that it was effective and it would prevent people from getting worse, absolutely, we would be prescribing it, but we just don’t have that data.”

“Outside of a clinical trial, I would not recommend it for anyone at this point until we get additional information on how we could do it safely and if it has any benefit,” Stovall said.

The health experts we spoke to say vaccination is still the best prevention for COVID-19. Monoclonal antibody treatments have also proven effective to treat COVID-19 symptoms.

Because many doctors will not prescribe the drug, some people are going to feed stores to buy a version of ivermectin designed for livestock.

“The doses that are recommended to treat animals for worm infection is going to be completely different than the dose that a human would use even for a worm infection in which it’s approved,” Bernard said.