Update: One hospital has denied Dr. Jason McElyea’s claim that ivermectin overdoses are causing emergency room backlogs and delays in medical care in rural Oklahoma, and Rolling Stone has been unable to independently verify any such cases as of the time of this update.
The National Poison Data System states there were 459 reported cases of ivermectin overdose in the United States in August. Oklahoma-specific ivermectin overdose figures are not available, but the count is unlikely to be a significant factor in hospital bed availability in a state that, per the CDC, currently has a 7-day average of 1,528 Covid-19 hospitalizations. The doctor is affiliated with a medical staffing group that serves multiple hospitals in Oklahoma. Following widespread publication of his statements, one hospital that the doctor’s group serves, NHS Sequoyah, said its ER has not treated any ivermectin overdoses and that it has not had to turn away anyone seeking care. This and other hospitals that the doctor’s group serves did not respond to requests for comment and the doctor has not responded to requests for further comment. We will update if we receive more information.
The rise in people using ivermectin, an anti-parasitic drug usually reserved for deworming horses or livestock, as a treatment or preventative for Covid-19 has emergency rooms “so backed up that gunshot victims were having hard times getting” access to health facilities, an emergency room doctor in Oklahoma said.
“The ERs are so backed up that gunshot victims were having hard times getting to facilities where they can get definitive care and be treated,” McElyea said.
“All of their ambulances are stuck at the hospital waiting for a bed to open so they can take the patient in and they don’t have any, that’s it,” said McElyea. “If there’s no ambulance to take the call, there’s no ambulance to come to the call.”
Dr. Mary Clarke, president of the Oklahoma State Medical Association told the Tulsa World that hospitals are so short on beds, they have to transfer patients out of state to get them the care they need. “We know that patients are being transferred out of state for beds,” Davis said. “We are increasingly concerned about the number of holds that are in emergency rooms waiting for ICU beds.”
“I’m trying to help people understand this is not just COVID,” said Clarke. “This is a domino effect to every other health condition that may need a hospital bed. Everything else. Period.”
People getting sick from ivermectin — especially as some people take a formulation of the drug used in livestock — has become so frequent that this month the Food and Drug Administration released a statement imploring Americans to stay away from the drug that has not been approved to treat or prevent Covid-19. “You are not a horse. You are not a cow,” the agency said while linking to an explainer about the dangers of ingesting ivermectin designed for livestock.
“Animal drugs are highly concentrated for large animals and can be highly toxic in humans,” the FDA cautioned. The agency went on to explain that although the medication is sometimes used in humans as a treatment for parasites or scabies, or in topical form to treat rosacea, the doses are much smaller than are given to livestock. Still, people have been going to feed stores and purchasing livestock doses of the drug, leading many stores to post warnings next to the ivermectin supply, cautioning it is not for use in humans.
As people take the drug, McElyea said patients have arrived at hospitals with negative reactions like nausea, vomiting, muscle aches, and cramping — or even loss of sight.
“The scariest one that I’ve heard of and seen is people coming in with vision loss,” the doctor said.
According to a health advisory issued by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention on August 26, prescriptions for ivermectin have increased 24-fold over pre-pandemic numbers. That amounts to more than 88,000 prescriptions for the drug issued between early July and mid-August of this year. Even podcaster and anti-vaccine conspiracy theorist Joe Rogan bragged that he took ivermectin along with other experimental treatments after he tested positive for Covid-19. As a result of the drug’s increased publicity, calls to poison control centers nationwide regarding ivermectin have multiplied, as have hospital and emergency room visits, the CDC said.
“There’s a reason you have to have a doctor to get a prescription for this stuff because it can be dangerous,” McElyea said.