Drug used for horses makes its way to COVID-19 patient prescriptions

Drug used for horses makes its way to COVID-19 patient prescriptions

FORT MYERS, Fla. – A drug commonly given to horses is now making its way onto prescriptions for patients fighting COVID-19 in Southwest Florida. 

The drug is called Ivermectin, and it’s been around since the 1980s. Ivermectin is approved to treat scabies, or bed bugs, in humans. 

Dr. Sunil Lalla, a critical care pulmonologist with Lee Health, is writing scripts to help patients with COVID-19. 

“We are using it on patients that have long-term COVID,” said Dr. Lalla. “It is an overall safe drug that has been used all over the world for parasitic infections.”

About a dozen of his patients suffering from long-term COVID-19 of six or more months are using Ivermectin to help subdue their symptoms. However, it does come with a risk.

“They’re notified that this is not an FDA-approved medication at all,” he said. “The patient is given an informed consent.”

The thing is, ivermectin isn’t approved for treating COVID-19. The CDC and FDA both advise against its use but that isn’t stopping people. While the vaccine is recommended, ivermectin is what’s flying off the shelves.

“Right now, that’s the hot new drug that we’re selling quite a bit of,” said T.J. DePaola of Cypress Pharmacy. “We’ve probably sold more in the last two months than we did in a 5-year span.”

Here’s where the real danger comes in. Rumors on social media said the horse version of Ivermectin is safe, but experts said otherwise.

“It’s weight-based and there’s a difference between, obviously, the weight of a human and the weight of a thoroughbred,” said DePaola. 

“The doses which are given to horses definitely are toxic to human beings,” added Dr. Lalla. “I don’t authorize that at all.”

There are studies underway, said Dr. Lalla, looking at Ivermectin preventing COVID-19. Until it’s approved, the best way to beat the virus? 

“Take the vaccine,” said Dr. Lalla. 

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