LAS VEGAS — A Las Vegas feed store says it's facing a shortage of a drug designed to treat parasitic worms in large animals because customers are purchasing it as a treatment for COVID-19.
The drug, Ivermectin, was the subject of a warning for the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention on Thursday. Though it's been studied in connection with treating COVID-19, the FDA strongly recommends against non-prescription human consumption of the drug.
But that's not stopping people from trying to get their hands on Ivermectin in the Las Vegas valley.
V&V Tack and Feed normally stocks and sell Ivermectin for use on horses. But right now, they're completely sold out of the horse dewormer, and store associate Shelly Smith suspects a lot of her customers aren't using it as intended.
"I had a gentleman come in, and he was an older gentleman. He told me that his wife wanted him to be on the Ivermectin plan," Smith said. "I immediately brought him over here because at that time, I had this sign hung up, and I told him this isn't safe for you to take. And he says, 'Well, we've been taking it, and my only side effect is I can't see in the morning.' That's a big side effect, so you probably shouldn't take it."
Smith says the demand for Ivermectin started increasing months ago, so she decided to put out a warning sign next to the drug.
"The first sign came about several months ago when you started seeing articles about Ivermectin treating COVID," Smith said. "So when I was ordering my Ivermectin, I noticed our distributors had that [warning], so I figured let me hang one too just to let people know, 'Do not take this.'"
Smith says the demand for the drug has continued to increase in recent weeks, and she's been receiving four or five customer calls a day inquiring about Ivermectin. That's why Smith hung up a second sign, now requiring customers to present a picture of their horse before they can buy Ivermectin.
"I don't want people taking Ivermectin horse wormer because it's horse wormer," Smith said. "You need to prove to me that you have a horse in order for me to sell you this product because you should not be taking this product. This is not for humans to take. This is to treat parasites in horses.
Dr. AJ Manship at Desert Pines Equine Center concurs. He doesn't recommend any humans take Ivermectin — and most animals, for that matter.
"It can have a lot of serious consequences in people and actually in some veterinary species as well, especially if the correct dose is not administered," Manship said. "In animals, we saw a lot of neurologic diseases, so seizures, coma, death if it's overdosed. A lot of people that own shepherd dogs will be familiar with this. They're very sensitive to this drug, and it can kill them. Any time these drugs are used in an unintended manner, there's a really high likelihood of complication, and it's just not safe."
One of the repercussions of the Ivermectin is that horse owners now have none to give their animals. Shelly Smith says she can't find a single supplier who has Ivermectin in stock right now, and she has no guarantee that will change anytime soon.
This story was originally published by Ross DiMattei on Scripps station KTNV in Las Vegas.