Texans are calling poison control in record numbers after ingesting horse and cow dewormer

Ivermectin is used by veterinarians to treat 1,000 pound animals

Ivermectin, a livestock medication that can be used to treat lice and other conditions in humans, has exploded in popularity as people have tried to self-medicate against COVID-19. (Copyright 2021 by WJXT News4Jax - All rights reserved.)

SAN ANTONIO – People are taking horse and cow dewormer as a way to prevent and treat COVID-19 despite doctors and other health officials strongly advising against it.

Ivermectin is a drug that doctors sometimes prescribe to kill worms or treat external parasites like scabies in humans but it’s also used for veterinary purposes.

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Due to misinformation on the internet, people have been starting to ingest veterinary grade ivermectin which is specifically labeled as not being for human consumption, according to the Food and Drug Administration.

KSAT spoke with the Medical Director of the South Texas Poison Center, Shawn Varney, and he said there’s been a substantial increase in calls about human exposure to ivermectin this year.

“People are taking ivermectin that’s specifically for vet purposes. These are highly concentrated volumes of ivermectin meant to treat 1,000 pound animals and people are ingesting it,” Varney said.

Varney told KSAT that in 2019 there were 191 total calls about ivermectin exposure in Texas and in 2020 there were a total of 178 calls. He said these calls might be linked to a child getting into a dose of Ivermectin or someone could have had an adverse reaction, among other things.

But from Jan. 1 through Aug. 26 of this year there have already been 260 calls in Texas relating to ivermectin. Varney said if that rate continues - Texas is on par to get somewhere around 390 calls about ivermectin by the end of the year. That’s more calls than 2019 and 2020 combined.

“There are many more cases about ivermectin exposure that nobody calls about which means the number is very likely underreported,” Varney said.

So far this year, Varney said the Texas Poison Control Center is getting two types of calls.

“People are calling in and saying they have taken ivermectin to try and prevent COVID-19 and other people already have it and are trying to get over COVID more quickly,” said Varney.

He also stated that there is no scientific basis that ivermectin helps with COVID-19.

Additionally, the FDA has stated that “taking a drug for an unapproved use can be very dangerous. This is true of ivermectin, too.”

Merck, one of the manufacturers of ivermectin, has even issued a statement saying there is “no meaningful evidence for clinical activity or efficacy in patients with Covid-19.”

Varney said he wants everyone to know that the Texas Poison Center Network is available 24/7 at 1-800-222-1222.

“It’s completely free, there is no charge to call and speak with one of the medical professionals,” said Varney.