Veterinarians and health experts are warning that a livestock deworming medication is not safe for human consumption.

Ivermectin is in low supply at farm supply and feed stores because people are taking it to combat COVID-19. More than two dozen ivermectin exposure calls have been handled by the Alabama Poison Information Center at Children’s of Alabama — the majority of which were related to COVID-19.

“Animal formulations of ivermectin are not safe for human use,” says Soren Rodning, an Alabama Cooperative Extension System veterinarian and associate professor of animal sciences at Auburn University. “Bottom line — do not self-medicate with animal ivermectin products. I cannot emphasize this enough.”

Although a human formulation of ivermectin is available, the concentration of the livestock drug, as well as the inactive ingredients, can pose significant health risks for humans.

“It would be wonderful to have a cheap oral medicine to treat COVID, but the blood concentrations needed for the active ingredient are substantially higher than ever studied and is not safe in humans,” says Marilyn Bulloch, an associate clinical professor of pharmacy practice at Auburn University. “Research shows that it does not work in normal human doses.”

Spencer Durham, an associate clinical professor of pharmacy practice at Auburn University, warns that ingesting ivermectin that is manufactured for livestock could prove deadly.

“To achieve adequate blood concentrations,” he says, “would require a lethal dose of the human formulation.”

Scientific studies are being conducted to determine the efficacy of various drugs in treating COVID-19, but none have proven effective. Ivermectin is among those being studied.

“Currently, there is a well-designed, large-scale study in people underway in the United Kingdom to investigate if ivermectin could be effective in more normal human doses,” Bulloch says. “But we do not know how long that study will run and when the data will be available.”

Rodning, Bullock and Durham recommend that the strongest defense against COVID are vaccination; wearing a mask; social distancing; frequent hand washing; keeping hands away from your face, especially the nose and mouth; a healthy diet and adequate rest.

“I understand that people want to feel that any medications and vaccines are well-researched and safe,” Durham says. “But there is no evidence to support that normal doses of human formulations of ivermectin are effective and significant evidence that animal formulations are not safe for people and possibly lethal.”

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