IN parts of the United States there has been a run on the livestock dewormer Ivermectin because humans are using it. Demand for the drug is so high in Iowa that farmers are struggling to get hold of supplies.
Ah, no. Ivermectin has been seized on by right-wing Republicans as a new cure for coronavirus. Fox presenter Sean Hannity and Kentucky Senator Paul Rand have been among those advocating for its use instead of coronavirus vaccines.
Are they mad?
They’re certainly furious. Some commentators see this as just another development in the ongoing culture war in the US. If the Democrats are associated with the vaccine, then some on the right want to reject it and cast around for alternatives. Senator Rand has argued that scientists are not willing to investigate the efficacy of Ivermectin for use against coronavirus because they are politically opposed to the Republican party.
They are mad, then. What is Ivermectin anyway?
It’s an anti-parasitic drug (not an anti-viral one). It has some uses for humans for dealing with internal parasites as well as head lice and scabies.
So, it’s safe?
Umm, not necessarily, according to America’s Food and Drug Administration [FDA]. According to its website it is possible to overdoes on Ivermectin which can lead to nausea, vomiting, diarrhoea, low blood pressure, allergic reactions, dizziness or ataxia (i.e., you have problems with your balance).
And that’s the good news. It can also lead to seizures, comas and even death, the FDA claim.
Why would you take it then?
You would take it if you don’t believe what scientists tell you. A woman in Ohio has taken out a lawsuit to force doctors to give the drug to her husband, currently in hospital with Covid.
And are people actually taking it?
Some, it would seem. Last month Florida reported more than 30 cases of Ivermectin poisoning. In March there were only two. In Texas, meanwhile, the Texas Poison Center Network received 64 calls in August (and that figure only takes us up to August 24).
According to USA Today there were 23 calls about Ivermectin taken between January and August in Texas in the whole of 2020. This year over the same time period that figure is 159, which represents a 591 per cent increase.
This isn’t the first time Republicans have been promoting dubious cures for coronavirus, is it?
It’s not, no. Last year then President Donald Trump said he was taking the anti-malarial drug hydroxychloroquine. “I say, hey, you know the expression I’ve used … What do you have to lose?”
Earlier this year the World Health Organisation reported that the drug has no meaningful effect on deaths or hospitalisations due to coronavirus and may even increase the risk of adverse effects.
A US study into its use also reported that there were more deaths among those given hydroxychloroquine as opposed to those who were given standard care.