ALBUQUERQUE, N.M. (KRQE) – Local health officials said some New Mexicans are taking a drug meant for livestock to treat or prevent COVID-19 in people. Despite the drug not being approved by the FDA or other national health organizations to treat COVID, the state’s Poison Center said they’ve seen an increase in New Mexicans statewide taking the livestock deworming drug, Ivermectin.

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States across the US are seeing an increase in people taking the drug. The FDA said the drug is primarily used to prevent parasites in livestock. There are tablets for humans to treat some parasitic worms and topical formulas for head lice and skin conditions, but it requires a prescription. Here in New Mexico, health officials said some people are turning to the drug for the coronavirus.

“This is a phenomenon that has occurred periodically throughout the COVID-19 pandemic,” said the Medical Director of the New Mexico Poison Center, Dr. Steven Seifert. “People want desperately to find something that works. I can tell you what works and that is the vaccinations.”

The New Mexico Poison Center said they’ve got at least 14 calls this year, compared to just six the year before. “Sometimes we’ll get a cluster because of its use in veterinary medicines that you may have individuals exposed accidentally in that context,” said Dr. Seifert. “But this is clearly in response to its recent.. the advocacy for its use in either treating or preventing COVID-19.”

The Poison Center said some people are straightforward about why they’re taking it, saying they’re using the drug to prevent or treat COVID. Health officials said large doses of the drug can be dangerous, even deadly for people. “Specifically at this point, we can say the infectious disease society of America, the FDA, and the NIH have all recommended against using Ivermectin for either the prevention or the treatment of COVID-19.”

Dr. Seifert said just in August alone, they were notified about three exposures of people taking Ivermectin. The Poison Center said if you have any questions about the drug to give them a call at 1-800-222-1222.