- An ER doctor in Oklahoma said rural hospitals in the state are clogged with people overdosing on ivermectin.
- Dr. Jason McElyea said the bed shortage was so severe that gunshot victims are waiting to be treated.
- McElyea said people reported adverse effects like vision loss after overdosing on the deworming drug.
- Visit Insider’s homepage for more stories.
A doctor in rural Oklahoma said the number of people overdosing on the deworming medication ivermectin meant for livestock is so high that emergency rooms were filled to the brim.
McElyea told KFOR the hospitals he worked at in eastern and southeastern Oklahoma became overwhelmed after people started taking ivermectin, believing unverified claims that it’s an effective COVID-19 treatment.
“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.
Insider could not independently verify McElyea’s claims that local ERs are backed up.
He added: “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.”
Northeastern Health System Sequoyah, a hospital in Sallisaw, Oklahoma, released a statement over the weekend that said it is not one of the hospitals treating people for ivermectin overdoses.
-Phil Kerpen (@kerpen) September 5, 2021
“All patients who have visited our emergency room have received medical attention as appropriate,” the statement said. “Our hospital has not had to turn away any patients seeking emergency care.”
Video: Overdoses from ivermectin overwhelm rural Oklahoma hospitals (Daily Mail)
The hospital also said McElyea has not worked at Sequoyah in two months but clarified that he “is affiliated with a medical staffing group that provides coverage for our emergency room.”
McElyea said many of his patients were familiar with ivermectin. “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,” he said. “Because of those accidental sticks when trying to inoculate cattle, they’re less afraid of it.”
But McElyea said he’d seen people suffering from the ramifications of taking doses meant for a full-sized horse, including 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 said.
Other hospitals in Oklahoma are also facing dire circumstances. McElyea told the Tulsa World that one of his colleagues had to send away a patient with severe COVID-19 symptoms to South Dakota because there were no available intensive care unit beds available.
“They had sat in a small hospital needing to be in an ICU for several days, and that was the closest ICU that was available,” McElyea said.
Three major Oklahoma hospital systems have no available ICU beds, the Tulsa World reported.
Oklahoma has reported a total of 557,770 COVID-19 cases and 8,001 deaths, according to The New York Times’ case tracker. The state’s daily average of new cases was 2,671 on Thursday, a 21% increase over the past 14 days.
US health authorities have said that while some initial research is underway, ivermectin is not approved or recommended as a treatment for COVID-19.
The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention released a health advisory last week warning that people could become severely ill from self-medicating with ivermectin and that overdosing could cause a coma, seizures, and death.
At the very least, any milder side effects – like nausea, vomiting, diarrhea, low blood pressure, and dizziness – are also unpleasant.
Despite health authorities’ warnings, data from the CDC indicates that people are continuing to take ivermectin. From early July to the week of August 13, pharmacies filled more than 88,000 ivermectin prescriptions, about 24 times the weekly average in the year to March 13, 2020, the CDC said on August 26.
The US National Institutes of Health is conducting a trial to see whether ivermectin could help people with mild or moderate COVID-19 cope better. A University of Oxford trial is also studying ivermectin as a COVID-19 treatment.