The US Food and Drug Administration sent out a recent warning via Twitter.
“You are not a horse,” it said. “You are not a cow. Seriously, y’all. Stop it.”
Days later, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention issued a similar warning, describing what it saw as an alarming increase in prescriptions for ivermectin, a drug typically used by veterinarians to get rid of worms in large animals such as horses and cows.
This probably shouldn’t have come as a surprise.
For months, conservative media personalities have been promoting this so-called miracle drug as a possible treatment for COVID-19.
Among them was Phil Valentine, a Nashville-based radio personality who went from vaccine skeptic to vaccine promoter after coming down with the virus. In announcing his illness, Valentine told listeners he was “taking vitamin D like crazy” and had begun using ivermectin.
Neither treatment worked. Valentine died Aug. 21.
While the drug is generally safe in low doses, the FDA warns that large doses can cause side effects including “skin rash, nausea, vomiting, diarrhea, stomach pain, facial or limb swelling, neurologic adverse events, sudden drop in blood pressure, severe skin rash potentially requiring hospitalization and liver injury.”
In the advisory, the CDC pointed out that more than 88,000 prescriptions had been issued in the week ending Aug. 13. That’s 24 times the number typically recorded before the pandemic.
At the same time, the agency said, calls to poison control centers had gone up three-fold.
The agency reported that one person trying to avoid the virus had to be hospitalized for nine days after drinking a formula intended for cattle.
The CDC reminded physicians in the advisory that ivermectin had not been approved for the treatment of COVID-19. Researchers did explore the possibility, the agency said, but clinical trials “yielded insufficient evidence” that the drug was effective.
The website MedPage Today reported in July that a 500-patient trial in Argentina had found that ivermectin had no effect in preventing hospitalization and that, in fact, COVID patients who took the drug wound up on ventilators faster than those who took a placebo.
A study carried out in Egypt had more positive results, the website reported, but that study was retracted based on accusations of plagiarism and the use of questionable data.
A report from NBC News notes that one of the biggest promoters of ivermectin is a group called America’s Frontline Doctors. That organization gained notoriety last year when then-President Donald J. Trump retweeted a video from a news conference in which one of the group’s physicians, Dr. Stella Immanuel, falsely called hydroxychloroquine a “cure” for COVID-19.
The organization’s founder, Simone Gold, faces charges related to events at the U.S. Capitol on Jan. 6. She has spent much of the last year sowing doubt about the COVID vaccines as she travels the country on what she calls “The Uncensored Truth Tour.”
The actual truth is included in that CDC advisory. Getting a vaccination, it says, “is the safest and most effective way to prevent getting sick and protect against severe disease and death” from COVID-19.
Take it from Mark Valentine, who spoke on his brother’s behalf as the talk radio host was fighting for his life in a hospital intensive care unit.
“First of all, he’s regretful that he wasn’t a more vocal advocate of the vaccination,” Mark Valentine said. “For those listening, I know if he were able to tell you this, he would tell you: ‘Go get vaccinated. Quit worrying about the politics. Quit worrying about all the conspiracy theories.’”
He might also suggest that you steer clear of that miracle drug ivermectin.