Amazon Canada has taken action on its platform to prevent shoppers from purchasing ivermectin as a treatment for COVID-19.
The medicine is used to treat parasites in humans and animals but the formulations are different.
Health Canada issued an advisory on Tuesday asking people not to take the drug to treat COVID-19, after CBC News reported that some people were attempting to take the veterinary form of the medicine intended for livestock, likely due to misinformation circulating about its efficacy for that purpose.
“There is no evidence that ivermectin in either [the human or veterinary] formulation is safe or effective when used for those purposes,” the federal agency warned on Tuesday.
“The human version of ivermectin is authorized for sale in Canada only for the treatment of parasitic worm infections in people.
“The veterinary version of ivermectin, especially at high doses, can be dangerous for humans and may cause serious health problems such as vomiting, diarrhea, low blood pressure … coma and even death.”
CBC News reported on Monday that dozens of social media posts appeared to show Canadians attempting to or successfully acquiring ivermectin from online stores such as Amazon in recent months.
At the time, some versions of the medicine intended for treating horses were available for sale on the site from third-party vendors, but those listings have since disappeared. Tongue-in-cheek reviews left on the U.S. site suggested shoppers were using it for humans rather than livestock.
Amazon Canada said Wednesday, in a response to a request from CBC News sent on the weekend, that it doesn’t offer ivermectin even though some over-the-counter products are authorized for sale in Canada.
The company said its top priority is customer safety and that it has added a disclaimer to search listings for the drug.
That disclaimer appeared to change over the course of the day Wednesday, initially linking to Health Canada’s coronavirus information page and later to the federal agency’s warning about ivermectin.
Search results for ivermectin also appear to have changed. Now when a shopper searches for “ivermectin COVID,” no results are listed, just the disclaimer that warns against taking the medicine for that purpose. A search for “ivermectin horse” brings up other care products for the animals, from vitamins to other deworming medicines.
And suggested search results no longer pair the term “ivermectin” with “COVID-19.”
Tech companies have struggled with how to keep misinformation off of their platforms throughout the pandemic. Some have updated their policies, removed posts or added disclaimers, but it’s proven to be an ongoing challenge as new claims frequently emerge.
Health Canada said it’s closely monitoring all potential treatments for COVID-19, including ivermectin.
“Should a manufacturer provide a submission to Health Canada related to the use of ivermectin to prevent or treat COVID-19, Health Canada would conduct a scientific evaluation of the evidence to determine the drug’s quality, safety and effectiveness,” the agency said.
A full list of drugs and vaccinations authorized for the treatment or prevention of COVID-19 is available on Health Canada’s website.
There are more than 32,000 active COVID-19 cases in Canada.
Doctors say the most effective prevention for COVID-19 is available free of charge and doesn’t need to be ordered on Amazon: vaccination.