'Stop it': FDA warns ivermectin is not a COVID-19 treatment drug

The U.S. Food and Drug Administration is warning people not to use ivermectin to treat or prevent COVID-19.

The drug is used in the U.S. to treat or prevent parasites in animals, according to a news release

"You are not a horse. You are not a cow. Seriously, y'all. Stop it," the agency tweeted on Saturday.

FDA officials said they've "received multiple reports of patients who have required medical support and been hospitalized after self-medicating with ivermectin intended for horses."

Officials warn that ivermectin has not been approved to treat or prevent COVID-19 in humans and that it is not an anti-viral drug. Rather, the agency has approved the drug "to treat people with intestinal strongyloidiasis and onchocerciasis, two conditions caused by parasitic worms." A topical cream has also been approved to treat external parasites like head lice and for skin conditions such as rosacea. 

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However, the FDA said initial research is underway to see if the drug is effective in combating the coronavirus. 

Some Indian state governments have plans to dose their populations with ivermectin to protect against severe COVID-19 infections as their hospitals are overrun with patients in critical condition. But, the World Health Organization has also warned against the use of this medicine in treating COVID-19 patients. 

The FDA reminds people that effective ways to limit the spread of the COVID-19 are to wear a mask, stay at least 6 feet from others who don’t live with you, wash hands frequently, and avoid crowds.

Health officials also remind people to get vaccinated.

According to the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, more than 170 million Americans are fully vaccinated, representing 51.3% of the country's total population.

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The rise in hospital cases has U.S. health officials renewing their calls for people to get vaccinated. In just the past two weeks, President Joe Biden has forced millions of federal workers to attest to their vaccination status or face onerous new requirements. He’s met with business leaders at the White House to press them to do the same.

U.S. health officials Wednesday announced plans to offer COVID-19 booster shots to all Americans to shore up their protection amid the surging delta variant and signs that the vaccines’ effectiveness is falling.

The plan, as outlined by the director of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention and other top authorities, calls for an extra dose eight months after people get their second shot of the Pfizer or Moderna vaccine. The doses could begin the week of Sept. 20.

"Our plan is to protect the American people, to stay ahead of this virus," CDC Director Dr. Rochelle Walensky said.

This story was reported from Los Angeles.