Drug for horses and sheep being bought up across Vancouver Island by people who think it will treat COVID-19

Ivermectin is a drug bought off-the-shelf at many animal feed retail stores. It’s used as a dewormer in horses and sheep, but lately it can't be found on many shelves across Vancouver Island because people have been buying it up, thinking it can treat COVID-19.

Kelvin McCulloch is the Chief Executive Officer of Buckerfield’s. He’s looking at an empty cabinet where his staff used to stock the deworming drug.

“So here, the spaces where Ivermectin would typically be is all empty,” said McCulloch.

That’s because people have been coming into Buckerfield’s in Duncan and eight other locations across the province, buying it up in droves.

“In a sense, this is astonishing because this is a product to kill parasites in the intestines of large animals,” said McCulloch. “I don’t know how that can possibly pertain to a virus like COVID.”

Buckerfield’s has posted signs on its ivermectin cabinets and has instructed staff to tell people that it’s for veterinary use only. In many cases, those that believe in the falsehood that the drug is a cure for COVID-19 have been taking their frustrations out on staff.

“Our staff don’t know what to do about that and they don’t need to be harassed,” said McCulloch.

Dr. Brian Conway of the Vancouver Infectious Disease Centre says he is saddened by this new phenomenon.

“It breaks my heart,” said Conway. “I think what this is showing us is that people are becoming more and more desperate for COVID to end and are willing to do almost anything, even it is untried, proven ineffective or even dangerous.”

“We need to be vaccinated,” he added.

According to the B.C. Centre for Disease Control, between March 1 and Aug. 30, nine cases were reported to B.C.’s Drug and Poison Information Centre of people ingesting ivermectin and becoming ill after taking the drug.

On Tuesday, Health Canada issued a statement warning Canadians not to consume the veterinary drug, saying there is no evidence ivermectin is safe for human consumption. Still, some believe it is the COVID solution, like one woman CTV News spoke with at a rally against mandatory vaccination in Victoria on Wednesday.

“Why is it being banned?” she asked. “Why are we not getting treatment out to people?”

Ivermectin is actually not being banned, but the fact that so many people are buying it as a COVID-19 drug has those who care for animals that actually need it concerned.

“I am nervous,” said Donna Friedlander, president of Tally-Ho Carriage Tours.

“If we don’t have access to the drugs that we need to keep our horses healthy, that’s a big problem.”

Back at Buckerfield’s a shortage is being felt and it’s expected to last for the foreseeable future.

“We’re having trouble ordering it,” said McCulloch. “We think it’s oversold right back to the supplier and the manufacturer, so we’re getting short quantities on our orders and as soon as we get quantities in, it’s gone again.”