(CNN) – Public health officials in the United States are aggressively dispelling claims by personalities in right-wing media that have been promoting ivermectin, an antiparasitic drug used for livestock, as a potential COVID-19 treatment.
“You are not a horse. You are not a cow”, tweeted this Saturday the Food and Drug Administration of the United States (FDA, in English). “Seriously, all of you. Stop now.”
Leading conservative media personalities – including Fox News anchors Tucker Carlson, Sean Hannity and Laura Ingraham – have mentioned ivermectin as a drug that could be used to treat COVID-19.
This is part of a recent theme in the right-wing media of attacking public health officials for promoting highly effective coronavirus vaccines as the best way out of the pandemic, rather than possible therapies to treat the virus.
Throughout the pandemic, Fox News, radio, and right-wing websites have promoted unproven therapies to treat COVID-19, while questioning the efficacy of vaccines and masks.
For example, for months in 2020, these same personalities pushed the antimalarial drug hydroxychloroquine as a possible treatment, despite the fact that studies indicated that it was not effective and that health authorities warned that taking it could have negative side effects.
The FDA has been warning for months that ivermectin may be unsafe, saying it “has received multiple reports of patients requiring medical support and being hospitalized after self-medicating with ivermectin intended for horses.” Although ivermectin has uses in humans, the FDA has not approved it for the treatment or prevention of COVID-19 in humans, and the drug is not an antiviral drug.
“Taking a drug for an unapproved use can be very dangerous. This is also true of ivermectin,” the FDA said on its website. “There is a lot of misinformation out there, and you may have heard that taking large doses of ivermectin is okay. That’s wrong.”
A Fox News spokesman did not respond to a request for comment Monday when asked about the network’s hosts promoting ivermectin.
Federal health authorities are not the only ones to dismiss the idea that the drug can treat COVID-19.
In Mississippi, where only 37% of the population is fully vaccinated, health authorities said Friday they had received a growing number of calls about people who had ingested the drug.
“Patients should be advised not to take any medications intended to treat animals and should be instructed to only take ivermectin as prescribed by their physician,” the Mississippi State Department of Health said in an alert. “Animal drugs are highly concentrated for large animals and can be very toxic to humans.”