A doctor who grew up on a horse farm and used Ivermectin for animals has a stern warning for people who think they should take the drug for COVID-19: Don’t do it.

“It’s not an antiviral drug. It’s not designed or meant to be a treatment for COVID-19,” said Dr. George Hertner, chief of emergency medicine for UCHealth in southern Colorado. “My big messages are get a vaccine and wear a mask.  Trust your healthcare provider not social media for your healthcare decisions.’’

The U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) issued stern warnings about the egregious and misleading social media promotions of Ivermectin for COVID-19: “You are not a horse. You are not a cow. Seriously, y’all. Stop it.’’

Even the drug’s manufacturer, Merck, has warned people not to use Ivermectin for humans who are suffering from COVID-19 or worried about getting it. Merck’s researchers warned that there is:

  • “No scientific basis for potential therapeutic effect against COVID-19.”
  • “No meaningful evidence…for clinical efficacy in patients with COVID-19.”
  • And “a concerning lack of safety data” on the use of Ivermectin related to COVID-19.

Hertner, who sees patients in UCHealth ERs, grew up on a farm and is familiar with Ivermectin and its intended uses.

“I grew up giving animals Ivermectin to remove worms from their intestinal tract,’’ he said. “You give this drug to pigs; you give this drug to sheep.’’

Dr. George Hertner's photo
Dr. George Hertner

Hertner says some of his patients have become upset when he declined to prescribe Ivermectin, which is sold at farm and ranch stores and from internet suppliers. But, Ivermectin should almost never be used in humans – and only in rare cases when a person has parasites like lice and ringworm.

Hertner said Ivermectin should never be prescribed for patients suffering from COVID-19.

“It’s not the right time or situation to prescribe it,’’ Hertner said.

Dr. Richard Zane, executive director of emergency services and chief innovation officer for UCHealth, echoed Hertner’s stern warnings about the dangers of Ivermectin.

“COVID-19 is a virus, not a parasite. Anyone suggesting you take it is trying to harm you on purpose,” said Zane, who is also a professor and chair of the Department of Emergency Medicine at University of Colorado School of Medicine on the Anschutz Medical Campus.

“It is unethical and immoral for anyone to recommend this medicine for COVID-19. There is zero evidence that it works in any way, shape or form,” Zane said. “Anything you hear from anybody as a proponent for Ivermectin is invented or designed to mislead or hurt you.”

The best way to stay safe and healthy is to get a vaccine to prevent COVID-19.

Health experts at the FDA have warned that taking Ivermectin in large doses can cause side effect including ‘skin rash, nausea, vomiting, diarrhea, stomach pain, facial or limb swelling, neurologic adverse events, sudden drop in blood pressure, severe skin rash potentially requiring hospitalization and liver injury.’’

The American Medical Association also cautions against using Ivermectin for COVID-19 treatment. The AMA is joined by other professional medical bodies that do not support Ivermectin as a treatment for COVID-19. They include: the WHO, NIH, CDC, American Pharmacists Association (APhA), and American Society of Health-System Pharmacists (ASHP) and The Infectious Diseases Society of America.

Despite the warnings, people are buying the livestock version of the drug and self-medicating.

“Just think about it,’’ Dr. Hertner said. “You’re going to a livestock store, getting something off the shelf that is built to go into say a 2,000-pound animal and you’re trying to figure out how much you should give yourself.’’

Some patients who have taken Ivermectin end up in the emergency room, he said.

“These are desperate times, people are worried, people are scared,’’ said Hertner, who is perplexed that people would take an unproven, potentially unsafe treatment intended to deworm animals but not get vaccinated, despite study after studying that proves they are safe.

Editor’s Note: During the pandemic, the Colorado Times Recorder will occasionally post articles, like this one, from UCHealth Today, which is published by UCHeatlh, the hospital associated with the University of Colorado School of Medicine. Our goal is to provide as many people as possible with accurate information about the virus and related topics.