Sen. Ron Johnson, R-Wisc., speaks at a Senate Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs hearing on Feb. 23, 2021. (AP Photo/Andrew Harnik, Pool)
Sen. Ron Johnson, R-Wisc., speaks at a Senate Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs hearing on Feb. 23, 2021. (AP Photo/Andrew Harnik, Pool)

“It’s shocking and appalling” that people continue to promote the horse dewormer as a COVID treatment, doctor says.

Calls to poison control centers across the US are increasing as more people consume a medication used to treat livestock for worms because they wrongly believe it will alleviate COVID-19. The rising number of emergency room visits has doctors in Wisconsin and elsewhere offering an urgent warning to not take ivermectin, no matter which politician, media celebrity, or other non-doctor is suggesting it.

Seventeen cases of ivermectin poisoning have occurred in Wisconsin this year, according to the Wisconsin Poison Center. Health officials in other states also report a rise in ivermectin poisonings in recent weeks after right wing groups and some conservative politicians, including Republican Wisconsin Sen. Ron Johnson, have endorsed its use as protecting against COVID-19. It does not. 

Last week the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention issued an emergency alert noting that cases of misuse of ivermectin are increasing. The US Food and Drug Administration has not approved the use of ivermectin to treat or prevent COVID-19, and the National Institutes of Health also does not recommend using the dewormer to treat the virus.

“As not just a physician but also a resident of Wisconsin, it’s shocking and appalling that any grown person, let alone our elected senator, would promote ivermectin as a treatment for COVID-19,” Dr. Bob Freedland, a La Crosse ophthalmologist who is state lead for the liberal group Committee to Protect Health Care, said Monday during a virtual event organized by that organization. 

Freedland criticized Johnson and others who have advocated for the use of ivermectin, saying no research shows it to be an effective treatment for COVID-19. In fact, endorsing the medicine’s use to treat the virus is dangerous, Freedland and other doctors said. 

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Johnson has been a vocal proponent for using ivermectin and hydroxychloroquine to treat COVID-19 despite repeated warnings from health officials that those substances aren’t effective and could lead to adverse health conditions. YouTube suspended Johnson in June after he violated the company’s policy regarding accurate medical information. 

Despite evidence to the contrary, Johnson continues to back the use of ivermectin and hydroxychloroquine, falsely claiming they could provide early treatment for the virus. His approach appears to be rooted in fostering mistrust of a government-endorsed vaccine that is proven effective.

“And that’s what this is all about, is the political goal of having mandated [vaccinations] and probably, eventually, vaccine passports,” Johnson told conservative radio talk show host Vicki McKenna last week.

Given the life-threatening nature of COVID-19, Johnson’s continued misrepresentation of the facts is reckless, said Dr. Scott Walker, a family medicine doctor in Prairie Du Chien. 

“With position and privilege comes great responsibility, and time and time again Sen. Johnson has not just shirked his responsibility, but actually spoken quite irresponsibly,” Walker said in a statement.