Some US horse owners are finding ivermectin hard to come by, due to the anti-parasitic’s popularity as an unproven and potentially dangerous treatment for Covid-19 in humans.
QC Supply, a livestock supply distributor in Nebraska, is out of stock of ivermectin paste, for use in treating pinworms and largemouth stomach worms in horses, the Washington Post reported. Other stores have reported shortages too.
“All people from different walks of life come in asking for it, numerous phone calls from people looking for it,” Blake Smith, team leader at the Tractor Supply store in Jacksonville, Florida, told local media earlier this month. Smith added that “a lot of people are using it, but they should not be using it on themselves”.
Ivermectin is a deworming agent most commonly used on horses, livestock and occasionally dogs and cats. It is used in smaller doses in humans as an anti-parasitic, to treat conditions including skin problems and headlice.
Ivermectin has been touted, baselessly, as a treatment for Covid in people. One hospital in Ohio was even told by a judge to give it to a patient, before another judge overturned the ruling.
Authorities have repeatedly warned there is no evidence that ivermectin can be used to treat the coronavirus, with the use of the drug potentially dangerous for some. On Saturday, it emerged that five people have been hospitalized in Oregon after taking the drug.
Nonetheless, demand for ivermectin has caused some people with horses to worry they will not be able to obtain it for their animals, or that they will be mistaken for Covid patients when trying to buy it.
Several outlets selling the horse paste list the product with warnings, such as Fleet Farm. Its website states: “Despite media reports that ivermectin could potentially be used to treat people with Covid-19, these products are not safe or approved for human use, which could cause severe personal injury or death.”
In Las Vegas, the V&V Tack and Feed store posted a sign saying the drug would only be sold to horse owners.
“MUST SHOW A PIC OF YOU AND YOUR HORSE,” the sign read.
In Florida, a supply store in Plant City took ivermectin off the shelves and only showed it when “legitimate customers come in”, the owner told the Fox13 network.
“There was an immediate frustration expressed by retailers who felt it was necessary to re-shelve ivermectin labeled products behind counters or locked in cases,” Cliff Williamson, director of health and regulatory affairs at the American Horse Council, told the Washington Post.
“Shoppers now go through extra steps to obtain equine medication.”