A University of Saskatchewan veterinarian is baffled that ivermectin, a livestock dewormer, is falsely being touted as a COVID-19 treatment.
"It beggars my belief that someone would even consider this," said Professor Chris Clark, associate dean academic at the Western College of Veterinary Medicine.
"Right there on the label, it says 'for animal use only. Do not use in humans.' "
The medication has been in use for 30 years as an effective drug to get rid of intestinal parasites and some skin parasites, commonly for horses and cattle, Clark said.
Due to recent reports of humans using it for COVID-19, the U of S is limiting dispensation of the drug to those with a prescription. It's typically sold over the counter, Clark said.
The risk of a human overdosing on a medication meant for a 500-kilogram animal is extremely high, he noted.
"You need to take (the) recommendation and advice seriously, and you need to take it more seriously than somebody who posted something on Facebook."
The Saskatchewan Health Authority has also posted warnings on social media.
Health Canada issued an advisory late Tuesday about “concerning reports of the use of veterinary ivermectin” to prevent or treat COVID-19.
“Canadians should never consume health products intended for animals because of the potential serious health dangers posed by them,” the statement read.
The U.S. Food and Drug Administration has also issued a warning on its website against using ivermectin, which comes in a tablet for human use to treat parasitic worms or in topical form for head lice and skin conditions like rosacea.
“Taking large doses of this drug is dangerous and can cause serious harm,” the website reads. “If you have a prescription for ivermectin for an FDA-approved use, get it from a legitimate source and take it exactly as prescribed.
Timothy Caulfield, a health law professor from the University of Alberta, said the medication's use has become an example of ideological group thinking.
“It mirrors what went on with hydroxychloroquine. The evidence against it just became so overwhelming that they have decided to put their energy in a new miracle drug — and that’s ivermectin and it’s doing real harm," he said.
“It highlights the power of an ideological lens to allow you to embrace information that is clearly wrong.”
Clark said he first heard rumblings about ivermectin and COVID-19 about six months ago during a preliminary trial for the human formulation of the drug that ultimately didn't look promising.
Formulations of the drug vary even between horses and cows because of their different digestive tracts, so their use by humans puzzles him, he added.
"As a veterinarian, the human side of all of this is a little bit of a mystery to me."
— With Canadian Press files
Nick Pearce, Local Journalism Initiative Reporter, The StarPhoenix