Public health officials are aggressively dispelling claims by right-wing media personalities who have been promoting an anti-parasitic drug used for livestock as a potential Covid-19 treatment.
“You are not a horse. You are not a cow,” the US Food and Drug Administration tweeted Saturday. “Seriously, y’all. Stop it.”
Top conservative media personalities — including Fox News hosts Tucker Carlson, Sean Hannity, and Laura Ingraham — have mentioned ivermectin as a drug that could possibly be used to treat Covid-19.
This is part of a recent theme in right-wing media of attacking public health officials for promoting the highly effective coronavirus vaccines as the best path out of the pandemic instead of potential therapeutics to treat the virus.
Throughout the pandemic, Fox News, talk-radio, and right-wing websites have promoted unproven therapeutics to treat Covid-19 while simultaneously casting doubt on the effectiveness of vaccines and masks.
For example, for months in 2020, these same personalities pushed the antimalarial drug hydroxychloroquine as a possible treatment, despite studies indicating it was not effective and health officials warning that taking it could have negative side effects.
The FDA has warned for months that ivermectin can be unsafe and has said that it has “received multiple reports of patients who have required medical support and been hospitalized after self-medicating with ivermectin intended for horses.” While there are human uses for ivermectin, the FDA has not approved it for treatment or prevention of Covid-19 in humans and the drug is not an anti-viral medication.
“Taking a drug for an unapproved use can be very dangerous. This is true of ivermectin, too,” the FDA said on its website. “There’s a lot of misinformation around, and you may have heard that it’s okay to take large doses of ivermectin. That is wrong.”
A Fox News spokesperson didn’t respond to a request for comment on Monday when asked about the network’s hosts promoting ivermectin.
Federal health officials aren’t the only ones pouring cold water on the notion that the drug can treat Covid-19.
In Mississippi, where only 37% of the population is fully vaccinated, health officials said Friday that they had received an increasing number of calls about people ingesting the drug.
“Patients should be advised to not take any medications intended to treat animals and should be instructed to only take ivermectin as prescribed by their physician,” the Mississippi State Department of Health said in an alert. “Animal drugs are highly concentrated for large animals and can be highly toxic in humans.”