How Covid Misinformation Created a Run on Animal Medicine

Ruth Jeffers, who owns Jeffers, the animal supplies retailer, said she had sold out of ivermectin paste on her website this year. After she restocked with more expensive versions, those tubes sold out, too.

So this spring, she limited new customers to five tubes. Partly driven by the demand, she raised prices for Jeffers-branded ivermectin, her cheapest option, to $4.99 a tube from $2.99 — and then to $6.99.

“It’s hard having your No. 1 product turn into a circus,” Ms. Jeffers said.

At the Horsey Haven Retirement Home in Newcastle, Calif., a boarding stable for retired horses, the lack of affordable ivermectin recently caused a debate about costs. Laura Beeman, Horsey Haven’s owner, said she had long used the drug to kill worms in the stable’s 28 horses. The treatments take place four times a year, at no cost to the horses’ owners.

But with the medicine’s prices rising, Ms. Beeman wasn’t sure she could keep offering the service free. She said she might start charging the owners for the now $7.99 tubes of paste, which previously cost $1.99.

“At this point, I have none left,” she said.

Dr. Emerson said her animal hospital usually went through two 500-milliliter bottles of ivermectin a year. Since opening her 3,500-square-foot hospital seven years ago, she added, she had “never” had difficulties getting the drug.

Her first clue that something had changed came two months ago when pet owners started asking about the medicine to treat the coronavirus. Last month, her housekeeper said her sister was drinking ivermectin in her coffee.

Dr. Emerson had been trying to restock the drug, but found only the 50-milliliter bottle. Now she said she understood why.