Ivermectin shot down by Health Canada as COVID-19 treatment as local feedlot stores get inundated with calls

A drug for deworming livestock has been rumoured to be effective at treating COVID-19, however doctors and now Health Canada say that is categorically false. 

More and more people in the U.S. are turning to Ivermectin to treat themselves, despite no clinical proof that it is effective aginst the coronavirus. 

Tuesday night, Health Canada issued an alert telling Canadians not to consume animal health products at any time due to the serious health risks they pose to humans.

The agency advised not to use either the human or veterinary versions of the drug to treat COVID-19, as there's no evidence that it is safe or effective for such purposes.

"People need to stop taking it," said Dr. Shazma Mithani, an Edmonton physician. "It’s dangerous."

Mithani says the drug, commonly used to treat horses, can have harmful impacts on the human body, including vomiting, diarrhea, poisoning leading to hospitalization and, in some cases, death.  

"If there was some magic silver bullet out there we would be shouting it from the rooftops," she said. "But, unfortunately, there just isn’t."

The phone has been ringing non-stop at Lone Star Tack & Feed, located just outside Calgary city limits, for several months.

The business sells Ivermectin, and manager Lance Olson says he's unsure why people believe this is the saving grace. 

"This is crazy, it defies logic," said Olson. "We’re an animal feed store. We don't cater to medications for humans, that’s something we can’t even touch." 

Olson says he has had calls dating back to last November from people asking for the drug at his store. 

In Alberta, you need a premises identification number in order to purchase Ivermectin from feedlot stores. Alberta’s Premises Identification Program was established to plan for, control and prevent the spread of animal diseases. 

Olson says calls really started to spike this summer. 

"We saw another massive uptick in searches and phone calls in June and July and we pulled it from our shelves in July."

Olson says BC residents were phoning in and asking for it to be shipped to them, as they do not require a PID number. 

In the beginning, Olson admits they were selling it out of province until he received calls from some people telling him they were using it in their orange juice and coffee. 

"We are not shipping out of province and we are not selling it to people out of province anymore," he said. "Some people have told us what their intentions are and, immediately when that happens, we say sorry we can’t sell this to you for that reason." 

Alberta Health Services says its Poison and Drug Information Service is not aware of any recent reports or calls of suspected poisonings from Ivermectin that have landed people in hospital. 

"The AHS Scientific Advisory Group conducted a review to explore using Ivermectin in treatment and prevention of COVID-19 and currently, Ivermectin is not an approved medication for the treatment of COVID-19 in Alberta," read a statement from AHS spokesperson Kerry Williamson. 

In Canada, Ivermectin has not been approved as a treatment for those battling COVID-19 as no clinical studies have been completed to determine if it stops the spread of the virus in humans. 

The US Food and Drug Administration (FDA) recently took to Twiitter to offer a reminder of the differences between humans and livestock.

You are not a horse. You are not a cow. Seriously, y'all. Stop it. https://t.co/TWb75xYEY4

— U.S. FDA (@US_FDA) August 21, 2021 With files from CTV News Toronto