Over the last month, Frank Wallmeyer and several other farm supply store owners in some parts of the United States noticed an antiparasitic medication called ivermectin flying off the shelves. At his own store in Jacksonville, Florida, ivermectin sales have nearly tripled, and the phone rings at least a dozen times each day with inquiries about the drug, Wallmeyer says.
But many of those inquiring weren’t looking to get rid of worms in cattle and horse intestines. Rather, they wanted to use the drug for themselves or their loved ones to prevent and treat COVID-19. Touted as a miracle COVID-19 cure by some doctors and campaigners, despite lacking scientific support, ivermectin seems to be in high demand among unvaccinated Americans. As the fast-spreading Delta variant ravages the country, the search for alternative medication has led vaccine sceptics to ivermectin. Although the Food and Drug Administration has approved ivermectin to treat certain parasites in humans and animals, its use against COVID-19 isn’t authorized.
Poison control centers in several states including Florida, Mississippi, and Texas reported a recent surge in calls and cases associated with ivermectin misuse and overdose. Also, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention reported that in the week ending August 13, 2021, more than 88,000 prescriptions were written for ivermectin, representing a 24-fold increase from the pre-pandemic baseline of 3,600 prescriptions per week. That meant some physicians were prescribing the drug for COVID-19, despite the FDA’s stand.