Oklahoma’s ERs are so backed up with people overdosing on ivermectin, gunshot victims are having to wait to be treated

Ivermectin is designed to be ingested by horses infected with parasites. Hollis Johnson/INSIDER

  • An ER doctor in Oklahoma says rural hospitals in the state are clogged up by people overdosing on ivermectin.

  • Dr. Jason McElyea said the bed shortage is so severe that gunshot victims have to wait their turn.

  • McElyea said he saw people reporting vision loss after overdosing on the horse deworming drug.

  • Visit Insider’s homepage for more stories.

A doctor in rural Oklahoma says the number of people overdosing on horse deworming medication ivermectin is so high that emergency rooms are filled to the brim.

The situation is so dire that even people with gunshot wounds have to wait their turn to get treatment, said Dr. Jason McElyea, an ER physician affiliated with multiple hospitals in Sallisaw, Oklahoma.

McElyea spoke to local news channel KFOR-TV on the dangers of overdosing on ivermectin, a medicine meant for use on livestock. He told the channel that the rural Oklahoma hospitals he worked at were overwhelmed after people started consuming ivermectin doses meant for fully-grown horses, believing unverified claims that the horse de-wormer is an effective COVID cure.

“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 told KFOR-TV. “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. If there’s no ambulance to take the call, there’s no ambulance to come to the call.”

McElyea added that many of his patients did not seem to have a problem consuming the horse de-wormer because they were familiar with the drug.

“Growing up in a small town, rural area, we’ve all accidentally been exposed to ivermectin at some time. So, it’s something people are familiar with. Because of those accidental sticks when trying to inoculate cattle, they’re less afraid of it,” he said.

McElyea said, however, that people are suffering real ramifications from taking a dosage meant for a full-sized horse, including “scary” instances of vision loss, nausea, and vomiting.

“Some people taking inappropriate doses have actually put themselves in worse conditions than if they’d caught COVID,” he added.

At press time, Oklahoma reported a total of 557,770 COVID cases and 8,001 deaths, per The New York Times’ COVID case tracker. The state reported a daily average of 2,671 cases on September 2, a 21% increase over the last 14 days.

The US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention released a health advisory last week warning that people could become severely ill from self-medicating with ivermectin because an overdose can cause a coma, seizures, and death.

The milder side effects are also very unpleasant and include nausea, vomiting, diarrhea, low blood pressure, dizziness, and other allergic reactions, per the US Food and Drug Administration.

The CDC’s numbers indicate, however, that people continue to consume ivermectin, disregarding warnings from the health authorities. From early July until the week of August 13, pharmacies filled more than 88,000 prescriptions of ivermectin.

The FDA has also urged people not to self-medicate with the drug because it is intended for livestock. It acknowledged that initial research is being carried out on the drug, but that the formula used for animals differs greatly from what humans are supposed to consume.

In the US, the National Institutes of Health is conducting a trial to see if ivermectin can help people with mild or moderate COVID-19 cases cope better. The University of Oxford’s PRINCIPLE trial is also studying ivermectin as a COVID-19 treatment.

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