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Horse dewormer for unproven COVID-19 treatment in high demand, confounding supply stores and farmers

  • Ivermectin is now held in locked case at the Tracker Supply Co. in Chichester. Teddy Rosenbluth / Concord Monitor staff

Concord Monitor
Published: 9/2/2021 1:00:31 PM

At first, it seemed odd when an unfamiliar customer bought ivermectin, an animal dewormer.

At Nashua Farmers’ Exchange – surrounded for several miles by concrete and cityscape – the drug meant for treating large animals wasn’t in high demand, but the store regularly kept it in stock. Judy Rata-Harrington, an assistant at the shop, couldn’t imagine another use for the product.

When a couple more customers came in asking for the same animal dewormer, Rata-Harrington knew something was awry. She and her husband, the manager at the store, decided to stop selling ivermectin.

“I just don’t want to get involved with this anymore,” she said.

Across the country, demand for ivermectin has peaked as some believe the drug will cure COVID-19, despite the fact that there is no evidence to support that claim. Though the drug is FDA-approved in humans to treat certain parasitic worms and lice, some have turned to local farm supply stores to purchase animal-grade ivermectin, where the drug is available without a prescription, frustrating store owners and irritating farmers.

Veterinary formulas of ivermectin are often highly concentrated and dangerous for human consumption. Ivermectin overdoses can cause vomiting, diarrhea, hallucinations, seizures, coma, and in extreme situations, death.

Thankfully, it seems purchasers of ivermectin either haven’t taken the medication yet or haven’t ingested enough to become severely ill. Ivermectin-related calls to the Northern New England Poison Center has remained constant from 2018 through 2021, according to a spokesperson from the center.

“There’s a lot of misinformation around, and you may have heard that it’s okay to take large doses of ivermectin,” a press release from the U.S Food and Drug Administration read. “That is wrong.”

Despite the agency’s attempts to debunk the myth, increased demand for the animal dewormers have forced farm supply stores to change the way they sell the product. At the Chichester Tractor Supply Co., yellow containers of ivermection are kept behind a locked cabinet with a large warning label, “Ivermectin HAS NOT BEEN APPROVED by the FDA for use in treating or preventing COVID-19 ... These products are only suitable for animals and are clearly labeled as such.”

An employee at another local animal feed store, who asked not to be named because she did not want to attract more ivermectin purchasers, said after one woman came in and bought 44 boxes of the dewormer, they decided to only sell the drug to regular customers who they know own farm animals.

The run on ivermectin has made it difficult for farmers who rely on the drug to keep their animals worm-free.

Katie Anthony, who uses the drug to periodically deworm her two horses in Sutton, said in March, after her Amazon subscription was backordered and her local farm stores were sold out, she decided to use some expired ivermectin she found in her barn.

Then, her pony, Bella starting showing symptoms of worms, which Anthony attributes to the long period between their dewormings.

“I have goats, dogs, and kids, so making sure we keep a handle on communicable parasites is really important,” she said.

Beth Glasmann, who owns a hobby farm in Goshen, said she is down to her last tube of ivermectin and hasn’t been able to find a refill at her local farm stores or online.

“It makes no sense to me,” she said. “If you use it on goats, you have to withdraw from drinking the milk for seven days and from eating the meat for 14 days. So, why people think it’s a good idea to put that into their body I have no idea.”


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