THE warnings from experts are dire: this stuff could kill you. It’s intended for animals, not people – yet that hasn’t stopped trade booming across the globe.
Ivermectin first started being touted as a cure for Covid-19 last year and since then illicit sales have been lining pockets far and wide.
Promoted by a social media frenzy, millions of tablets have been sold in SA and authorities are fighting an ongoing battle against the illegal trade. A container of unregistered medicine from India – most of it Ivermectin – with a market value of R126 million was seized at OR Tambo International Airport a few months ago. And at King Shaka International Airport in Durban, a man arriving from Dubai was arrested with 2 500 Ivermectin tablets in his hand luggage.
There are scores of posts on social media from people selling the drug, with others claiming the medication has saved them from Covid or helped ward off the disease.
A report in the Daily Maverick told how people in Gqeberha have been buying Ivermectin cattle dip and pouring it in their bathwater.
It’s a recipe for disaster, says toxicologist Dr. Gerhard Verdoorn, who heads the Griffon Poison Information Centre.
“People must not drink Ivermectin products for livestock, especially not the injectable and pour-on products. The pour-on alone contains substances that can cause havoc on your intestines. Ivermectin is a tough molecule that stays in your body for a long time.”
Across in the United States, people have turned to online consultations with a group called America’s Frontline Doctors (AFLD) to find doctors willing to prescribe it. They’re being charged $90 (R1 300) for a consultation and a script, but not actually getting medical advice or the drug.
Dr Irwin Redlener, director of the National Centre for Disaster Preparedness at Columbia University, describes the AFLD as the 21st-century digital version of snake-oil salesmen.
“And in the case of Ivermectin, it’s extremely dangerous.”
Poison control centers across the US have reported a surge in calls and cases associated with Ivermectin misuse and overdose. In one week alone last month, more than 88 000 prescriptions were written for it.
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