LOS ANGELES – Rolling Hills General Store owner Tracey Savich said she couldn’t tell if a customer was joking when he walked into her store asking for over-the-counter ivermectin for pets as a preventative against COVID-19.

The pest control drug, commonly used to deworm horses, cows and other livestock, has been controversially touted as a preventative and treatment for COVID, especially among those who remain skeptical of the vaccine. While its effectiveness against COVID has been debunked, some Californians have been successful in obtaining prescriptions from their health care providers.

But others who have been turned down are flocking to tack and feed stores looking for the over-the-counter version of the drug intended for farm animals.

“They are looking for us and they know we have it for the horses,” said Savich. “It’s just sad to come to this now.”

Sammy Weiss, deputy store manager, said that while she doesn’t explicitly ask customers if they buy ivermectin just for their pets, it has been easy to identify those who might be intending to buy ivermectin. ‘use for personal consumption.

“Everyone who comes here, we’re very familiar (with),” Weiss said. “We know who loves horses and who doesn’t. “

In Agoura Hills, David Manhan, owner of the West Valley Horse Center, said small increases in ivermectin sales are common during the horse and cattle deworming season, which runs from June through July and then into December. to january. But in recent weeks, his store has been receiving an average of two or three phone calls a day from people claiming to have horses and asking if he has any ivermectin products in stock.

On August 31, the Food and Drug Administration’s Center for Veterinary Medicine said in a statement to retailers and veterinarians that there were “continuing concerns that people are using animal formulations of ivermectin to treat or prevent COVID-19 in humans “.

“Even though animal drugs have the same active ingredient as an approved human drug, animal drugs have not been evaluated for safety or effectiveness in humans. Treating human medical conditions with veterinary drugs can be very dangerous, ”the statement said.

While ivermectin is prescribed to humans in much lower doses for the treatment of scabies, lice, river blindness, and other parasitic infections, the FDA has warned against consuming the products. of ivermectin found in food and grocery stores, which contain a much higher dose of the drug and can lead to poisoning.

Steve Lyle, director of public affairs for the California Department of Food and Agriculture, said some retailers, including food stores, that sell restricted livestock drugs such as ivermectin must be allowed by the department and keep a detailed sales log, including the name of the customer. , the address and the species on which the product will be used.

But that requirement only applies to ivermectin products labeled by the manufacturer for use in cows and sheep, not horses, Lyle said. This can serve as a loophole for those who might want to take the drug as a medical treatment for themselves without having to disclose their purchase.

Weiss said she and Savich had tried to dissuade customers from purchasing horse dewormer for themselves, by placing signs in their store reminding customers that taking veterinary ivermectin can be harmful and potentially fatal. But some customers insist, she said, even bringing printouts of reports on its supposed effectiveness.

“At the end of the day, if they really want it, they’re going to get it,” Weiss said. “You can ask all of these questions and you can tell them everything why they shouldn’t do this, but at the end of the day they’re going to do what they’re going to do.”

Savich said suppliers have already started selling ivermectin, which she says is a sign that as products fly off shelves elsewhere, increased sales may soon hit her store. After trying to place an order last week from seven different distributors, she could only find five tubes of topical ivermectin paste for horses.

“I looked at the list of supplies and it was all zero,” she said. “It’s going to be bad, and there’s nothing we’re going to be able to do.”

Savich said she was concerned that customers could injure themselves if they attempted to self-medicate with a product intended for a 2,500-pound animal. A normal dose of ivermectin prescribed for a human with lice or scabies, for example, is around 68 micrograms per pound of body weight, according to the Mayo Clinic. The average dose of ivermectin in a tube of over-the-counter horse dewormer is 91 micrograms per pound.

Stuart Herd, executive director of the California Poison Control System, said the center has received about 30 calls from people who ingested some form of ivermectin and became ill with nausea, vomiting, diarrhea, dizziness and dizziness. the confusion. But at high enough doses, like those found in various horse and cattle dewormers, Herd said the drug can cause serious side effects, including hallucinations and seizures.

“We definitely advise people every time: don’t use it for COVID,” Herd said. “It’s ineffective and it’s just going to make you feel bad. It does not help COVID. “

Herd says that using an antiparasitic drug like ivermectin to treat a viral infection like COVID-19 is worthless, regardless of the dosage. Yet some doctors in California and the country continue to write prescriptions for patients on request. According to the CDC, more than 88,000 prescriptions for ivermectin were written in the United States during the week ending August 13, compared to an average of about 3,600 per week before the pandemic.

Weiss and Savich, who both have their own horses, said the sudden shortage of ivermectin in other states worries them and other horse owners in the community about how they will be able to treat their animals. , if necessary, especially in the next winter deworming season.

“It’s stressful to think about it. What if I can’t deworm my horses? said Weiss. “If I can’t deworm my two horses – and there is a shortage – what am I going to do?” “

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