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Health and Medicine

People Are Taking Horse Drugs To Attempt To Cure COVID-19, Accidentally Poisoning Themselves

James Felton

James Felton

Senior Staff Writer

clockMar 2 2021, 15:47 UTC
Vet about to inject a horse

Not recommended for humans. Image credit: vchal/shutterstock.com

The Covid-19 pandemic has seen its fair share of dangerous misinformation, some of which has made people ill or worse.

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When the anti-malaria drug chloroquine was being touted as a potential "cure" for Covid, for instance, one man in Arizona died after he ingested chloroquine phosphate - a parasite treatment for fish with a similar name - thinking it would prevent him from contracting the disease. Another myth circulating last year - that highly concentrated alcohol could disinfect the body and cure the virus - left at least 5,876 have hospitalized, 60 completely blind and 800 dead, after they consumed methanol. 

Unfortunately, self-medication hasn't stopped even though effective vaccines have begun to be rolled out across the world.

"Poison centers are still responding to events related to COVID-19," Julie Weber, president of the American Association of Poison Control Centers and director of the Missouri Poison Center told ABC News on Friday. "On average, we are getting over 40 to 50 calls per day in addition to what we would normally get pre-pandemic."

Calls vary, but there has been an increase of cases involving people taking ivermectin, an anti-parasitic drug that has shown some early promise in the treatment of Covid-19, as well as an unusual method of killing mosquitos.

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The drug hasn't yet been approved by the US Food and Drug Administration (FDA) for the treatment of Covid-19.

"A recently released research article described the effect of ivermectin on SARS-CoV-2 in a laboratory setting. These types of laboratory studies are commonly used at an early stage of drug development," the FDA write on their website. "Additional testing is needed to determine whether ivermectin might be appropriate to prevent or treat coronavirus or COVID-19."

They added that you shouldn't take medicine that hasn't been prescribed by your doctor in order to prevent or treat COVID-19, and that treatments need to be acquired from a legitimate source. Evidently, that last part needs stressing.

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"We just had a case of someone using a veterinary source of ivermectin," Weber told ABC News. "A horse medication, that contains a significantly larger dose of the drug."

Potential side effects of the drug can be severe - even when not taken in large doses - and range from vomiting, diarrhea, stomach pain and facial or limb swelling to seizures, sudden drops in blood pressure and liver injury.

"People should never take animal drugs, as the FDA has only evaluated their safety and effectiveness in the particular species for which they are labeled," the FDA warn. "Using these products in humans could cause serious harm."

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In short, as a general rule, never take a drug that's got a picture of a horse on the bottle.


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