How Covid Misinformation Created a Run on Animal Medicine

Ruth Jeffers, owner of Jeffers, the pet supplies retailer, said she sold out ivermectin paste on her website this year. After filling up with more expensive versions, these tubes were also sold out.

This spring, she limited new customers to five tubes. Partly driven by demand, it raised the price of Jeffers-branded ivermectin, its cheapest option, from $ 2.99 to $ 4.99 per tube – and then to $ 6.99 per tube.

“It’s hard to make a circus out of your # 1 product,” said Ms. Jeffers.

At the Horsey Haven Retirement Home in Newcastle, California, a retirement stable for retired horses, the shortage of affordable ivermectin recently sparked a cost debate. Laura Beeman, the owner of Horsey Haven, said she had long used the drug to kill worms in the stable’s 28 horses. The treatments take place four times a year free of charge for the horse owners.

But with drug prices rising, Ms. Beeman wasn’t sure she could continue to offer the service for free. She said she could start billing owners for the now $ 7.99 tubes of paste that had previously been $ 1.99.

“At this point I don’t have any,” she said.

Dr. Emerson said her veterinary clinic typically goes through two 500-milliliter bottles of ivermectin a year. Since opening her 3,500 square meter hospital seven years ago, she has “never” had difficulty getting the drug.

Her first hint that something had changed came two months ago when pet owners started asking about the drug used to treat the coronavirus. Last month her housekeeper said her sister had ivermectin in her coffee.

Dr. Emerson tried to top up the drug but only found the 50-milliliter bottle. Now she said she knew why.