The Food and Drug Administration cautioned people not to take the drug Ivermectin, intended to fight parasitic worms in livestock, to treat or prevent COVID-19.
The FDA's warning on Saturday echoed a message Friday by the Mississippi State Department of Health, which released a statement following reports that an increasing number of people in The Magnolia State were using the drug to prevent a COVID infection, The New York Times reported.
Studies last year – especially in Latin America – inspired people to use the drug against COVID-19.
In February, though, the National Institutes of Health said that most of the Ivermectin-related studies "had incomplete information and significant methodological limitations."
The NIH cited small sample sizes and often-unclear study outcome measures.
The Times reported that more than two-thirds of recent calls placed to Mississippi's poison control center were related to "ingestion of livestock or animal formulations of Ivermectin purchased at livestock supply centers," the state department of health said in a release.
Among people who called about ingesting Ivermectin, 85% had mild symptoms, the Times said. One person was told to "seek further evaluation" because of the large amount apparently ingested, the state’s health department said.
The FDA said it received multiple reports, including some in Louisiana, of people who have "required medical support and been hospitalized after self-medicating with Ivermectin intended for horses."
The FDA has not approved the drug for COVID treatment.
"You are not a horse," the FDA tweeted. "You are not a cow. Seriously, y’all. Stop it."
Ivermectin was promoted as a potential COVID treatment earlier in the pandemic. But studies since have found that the drug's effectiveness against coronavirus is weak. The FDA has not approved the drug for COVID treatment.
Some supporters of the drug found it easier to obtain than a similar drug approved to combat tropical maladies in humans. That drug requires a prescription, The Washington Post reported in April.
Sen. Ron Johnson, R-Wis., was suspended from YouTube in June for posting a video touting Ivermectin and hydroxychloroquine as treatments for COVID-19, the Post reported.
In a release, the FDA said: "Taking large doses of [Ivermectin] is dangerous and can cause serious harm. … Never use medications intended for animals on yourself. Ivermectin preparations for animals are very different from those approved for humans."
Symptoms associated with Ivermectin toxicity include rash, nausea, vomiting, abdominal pain, neurological disorders and potentially severe hepatitis that could require hospitalization, Mississippi health officials said.
Mississippi reported 5,048 COVID-19 cases on Friday. Hospitalization and death rates have also been rising, the Times said.
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