KENAI — An Alaska borough mayor, who says he is not a medical professional, has promoted a debunked treatment for COVID-19 that is intended more for farm animals.
Kenai Peninsula Borough Mayor Charlie Pierce has publicly backed the use of ivermectin, an anti-parasitic deworming drug, the Peninsula Clarion reported Wednesday.
Livestock supply stores in the borough, south of Anchorage, have received numerous inquiries about the drug in the recent weeks.
Pierce has twice defended use of the drug, first at last week’s borough meeting and on Monday during a radio show on KSRM.
“What I’m asking for is that the … world view of the various treatments that are being researched and looked at outside of and including vaccinations be looked at from a more open perspective,” he said during the show. “Let the doctors experiment with perhaps some things that haven’t been signed off by the Food and Drug Administration.”
Pierce said ivermectin is “a very inexpensive medication” and encouraged listeners to research the drug further.
The U.S. Food and Drug Administration has approved ivermectin in both people and animals for some parasitic worms and for head lice and skin conditions. The FDA has not approved its use in treating or preventing COVID-19 in humans.
“Using any treatment for COVID-19 that’s not approved or authorized by the FDA, unless part of a clinical trial, can cause serious harm,” the FDA said in a warning about the drug.
Pierce did not return calls to the Clarion nor The Associated Press.
He also didn’t answer an email sent by the AP asking how he heard about the drug, why he’s promoting it if he’s not a medical professional and if he would feel liable if someone were to become ill or worse taking it. He also didn’t answer if he was vaccinated or if he was encouraging people in the borough, which has the fourth-worst vaccination rate in the state among boroughs, to get vaccinated.
The borough has a population of nearly 59,000 residents, according to the U.S. Census, with the total cumulative case count at 6,153. There are currently 56 cases, and 24 of those people are hospitalized. All 11 intensive care unit hospital beds are occupied.
Sarah Donchi, the owner of Kenai Feed and Supply, said she has received a lot of questions on the types of ivermectin she carries. Though she tells them it’s intended for animal use only, she said “people are buying it anyway.”
The label on ivermectin paste at Kenai Feed said it is meant to treat a horse up to 1,250 pounds. Another product said it is intended to treat cows weighing up to 550 pounds.
Employees at Cad-Re Feed in Soldotna are also getting inquiries about ivermectin “almost daily,” co-owner Shawn Taplin told the Clarion.
Taplin tells customers ivermectin is a drug he orders from a veterinary supply company, but they still purchase it. “What they choose to do with it is up to them,” he said.
Studying ivermectin as a COVID-19 medication has been mostly abandoned, according to Dr. Coleman Cutchins, the state pharmacist with the Alaska Department of Health and Social Services.
“Really what it comes down to, vaccines are how we treat viruses,” he said.
Ivermectin can be dangerous to humans if used incorrectly, Cutchins said. “The doses people are trying to recommend are really, really high,” he said.