Some ivermectin and related products used to treat animals for worms, lice and mites are behind a locked glass case at the Tractor Supply Store in Angola. The displays also include a warning about using the products for treatment and prevention of COVID-19, which has not proven effective and could cause harm or death in humans.

ANGOLA — Steuben County’s two chain agriculture stores are making it pretty plain: Use of a livestock dewormer is not safe as a treatment for COVID-19.

Both Rural King and to a greater extent Tractor Supply Co. have posted signs warning that use of ivermectin is unsafe as a COVID-19 treatment and could be deadly if improperly used by humans.

“Why would you want to do that? The stuff can kill you. Just go get the shot,” said an employee at Rural King.

A warning posted at Tractor Supply told customers that products containing ivermectin should not be used in humans because of serious health effects, including death.

“Ivermectin has not been shown to be a safe or effective way to prevent or treat COVID-19. If you are worried about COVID-19, please talk to your doctor,” said the warning at Tractor Supply. It included QA codes so people could get more information on their phones from the U.S. Food and Drug Administration.

There has been testing done and the conclusions point toward not using the livestock medicine, especially when people are randomly using it with little or no medical guidance.

“As for the now-controversial drug ivermectin: Preliminary results from one randomized, placebo-controlled trial did not show any benefit for COVID-19 treatment. Two more trials, also randomized and placebo-controlled, are underway,” Patrick Jackson of the University of Virginia said in an article published by The Conversation. “For now, based on current evidence, ivermectin should not be used to treat COVID-19 patients. When used incorrectly, this drug could cause serious harm. Ivermectin has been approved for treatment of parasitic worms and head lice; but using it off-label to treat COVID-19 has resulted in overdoses and hospitalizations. Ivermectin toxicity can cause nausea, vomiting, diarrhea, low blood pressure, confusion, seizures and death.”

(The entire article, which discusses numerous approved COVID-19 treatments, is available at bit.ly/39RlXM1.)

The drug is also used to treat mites in chickens.

At Tractor Supply in Angola, an employee said she knows there are some people who have purchased ivermectin who did not appear to be from the ag community, but there’s nothing they can do to stop them.

Large quantities of the medicine are kept under lock and key at Tractor Supply; in some forms, ivermectin is not cheap.

At Rural King, employees say they know there have been several people who have sought out the medicine, which they assume was for COVID-19 prevention or treatment.

The medicine is available for animals in an injectable liquid form, as a paste and in topical liquids, among others. On one social media forum that has since been taken down, people shared advice on the use of ivermectin, The New York Times reported. For example, one person asked for advice on using the paste and another advised putting it on a cracker with some peanut butter to ingest like a snack.

There are prescription forms of the medicine that are available for human consumption, but locally the only way to get it over the counter is at the farm supply store.

In August, said the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention in a health advisory, prescriptions for human formulations of ivermectin increased to more than 88,000 a week, up from a prepandemic baseline of 3,600. No data was available on people buying animal ivermectin.

On their websites, the CDC and FDA warn against using ivermectin to treat COVID-19.

In some parts of the U.S., procuring ivermectin to treat horses and other animals is becoming difficult because of the run on the medicine by people using it for COVID-19, a variety of news outlets have reported.

It has even caused the price of the product to spike. Some outlets are now charging $7.99 for a tube of ivermectin paste, The New York Times reported. Months ago, that same tube cost $1.99.

Tractor Supply and Rural King still have the product on their shelves, though the shelves were bare for certain varieties.

It has been reported nationally that livestock producers and veterinarians have stocked up on the medicine, fearing a run on the product by people wanting to use it for COVID-19.

It is not known how the run on the medicine has impacted local livestock producers or veterinarians.

Calls made to two veterinary clinics that treat large animals in LaGrange and Steuben counties were not returned.

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