The U.S. Food and Drug Administration is urging people to stop taking veterinary drugs to treat or prevent Covid-19 after receiving multiple reports of patients who have been hospitalized after "self-medicating with ivermectin intended for horses," according to the federal agency.
"You are not a horse. You are not a cow. Seriously, y'all. Stop it," the FDA tweeted from its official account on Saturday, alongside a consumer update detailing why the drug can be unsafe for humans.
Ivermectin, which is not an anti-viral drug, is generally used to treat or prevent parasites in animals.
"These animal drugs are often highly concentrated because they are used for large animals like horses and cows, which can weigh a lot more than" a human, the FDA update reads. "Such high doses can be highly toxic in humans."
Patients who overdose with ivermectin can experience nausea, vomiting, diarrhea, low blood pressure, allergic reactions, dizziness, problems with balance, seizures, coma and even death, according to the FDA.
The agency clarified that the FDA-approved ivermectin tablets meant to treat people with certain conditions caused by parasitic worms as well as topical formulations used for head lice and skin conditions like rosacea are different from the drug used on animals. Ivermectin tablets and topical formulations for humans have "very specific doses" that are significantly smaller than the doses meant for animals.
Moreover, "many inactive ingredients found in animal products aren’t evaluated for use in people," the FDA warned. "In some cases, we don’t know how those inactive ingredients will affect how ivermectin is absorbed in the human body."
The FDA stressed that no form of the ivermectin drug has been approved by the agency for use in treating or preventing Covid-19 in humans.
"However, some initial research is underway," the agency said, adding that "taking a drug for an unapproved use can be very dangerous. This is true of ivermectin, too."
The agency said it was forced to issue a warning in the consumption of ivermectin following "a lot of misinformation" around the drug.
"You may have heard that it’s okay to take large doses of ivermectin. That is wrong," the FDA consumer update reads. "Meanwhile, effective ways to limit the spread of Covid-19 continue to be to wear your mask, stay at least 6 feet from others who don’t live with you, wash hands frequently, and avoid crowds."
The FDA has also granted emergency use authorizations for three Covid-19 vaccines to prevent Covid-19 infections.
Covid-19 has claimed the lives of more than 630,000 people in the U.S. since the start of the pandemic in early 2020. Since then, more than 37.6 million cases of Covid-19 infections have been reported nationwide, according to NBC News' tally.