Some Americans are starting to ask doctors for Ivermectin, an anti-parasite drug used on horses, as a cure for Covid-19. But a number of experts have come out saying the drug could actually be dangerous if taken for the wrong reason. Experts also say there has been no evidence that Ivermectin works to treat Covid-19.

According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), prescriptions for the drug have jumped up by 88,000 in the past week, despite it not even being anti-viral medication. So why are people looking for Ivermectin instead of the vaccine?

Does Ivermectin Work for Covid-19? 

Ivermectin is not a cure for Covid-19. For dog owners and livestock caretakers, the drug is most widely used to treat worms and parasites. The Food and Drug Administration has not approved the drug for use in preventing Covid-19 and warns that drugs meant for animals have very different effects on humans.

“You are not a horse. You are not a cow. Seriously, y’all. Stop it,” the FDA wrote on Twitter.

The drug has consistently failed in clinical trials as a drug for Covid-19 prevention, according to the CDC, with some doctors comparing the surge of interest to hydroxychloroquine, the anti-parasite drug that received attention as a false “miracle cure” in 2020.

Is Ivermectin Dangerous?

At high doses, Ivermectin can have dangerous effects on humans, which is a problem because the anti-parasite drug is very benign for humans unless it is taken in high doses. To that degree, however, Ivermectin can interact with other medications and result in an allergic reaction, nausea, vomiting, seizures, and even death.

“Taking a drug for an unapproved use can be very dangerous,” The FDA said. “This is true of ivermectin, too.”

Poison control centers in the U.S. have reported a 300% increase in the number of calls received in 2021 for human exposure to Ivermectin since before the pandemic, according to the CDC, with some resulting in accidental overdose.

One man reportedly had to stay in the hospital for nine days due to ingesting the anti-worm drug meant for cattle, while another who took five tablets a day for five days straight now has an altered mental status and had trouble answering questions in the hospital for days.

The CDC warned that people should “seek immediate medical attention or call the poison control center hotline (1-800-222-1222) for advice if you have taken ivermectin or a product that contains ivermectin and are having symptoms.”

Is it Effective?

Ivermectin is not effective in treating Covid-19, but it is effective as a veterinary drug for treating worms and parasites in animals.

The drug has been approved for humans in very specific cases for parasites, head lice, or various skin conditions like rosacea, but it is not an anti-viral medication. For a virus-like Covid-19, the most effective thing one can do is get the vaccine.

Aside from outbreaks of the delta variant in areas with lax mask mandates and low vaccinated population totals, the Covid-19 vaccine has proven to be effective at reducing the chance of contracting the virus.

“The only functional strategy we have for getting control of Covid-19 is vaccination,” Dr. Irwin Redlener, founding director of the National Center for Disaster Preparedness at Columbia University, told The New York Times. “If people are not getting vaccinated because of nonsense they’re reading on the internet, that interferes with our ability to get this pandemic under control.”

How Can I Get Ivermectin?

Essentially, you shouldn’t. If your veterinarian prescribes Ivermectin to your dog or horse for treatment in heartworm and other parasites, then by all means get a prescription, but the drug is effective in preventing Covid-19 and can even be dangerous for humans unless prescribed in specific doses for other ailments.

“If you have a prescription for ivermectin for an FDA-approved use, get it from a legitimate source and take it exactly as prescribed,” the FDA warned. “Taking large doses of this drug is dangerous and can cause serious harm.”