STUART, Fla. — As the pandemic rages on, some people are resorting to unconventional treatments in the fight against COVID-19.
"In August of 2020, I caught COVID -- a severe strand," Jim Abernethy said. "It got to the point very quickly once the symptoms set in where I could only walk 15 feet in my house, and then I was put on the ground until I could catch my breath."
COVID-19 also took a bite out of Abernethy's shark expedition business, which is still being impacted.
"I've just had to cancel two trips," he said. "The delta variant has basically scared my guests away. They don't want to come to Florida."
Trying to keep his business afloat during these challenging times, Abernethy said he started taking Ivermectin to protect himself from contracting COVID-19 again.
"I am vaccinated, and I have been on Ivermectin since Dec. 15," he said.
Ivermectin is approved by the Food and Drug Administration to treat parasites, but has not been approved for use in treating or preventing COVID-19.
You are not a horse. You are not a cow. Seriously, y'all. Stop it. https://t.co/TWb75xYEY4— U.S. FDA (@US_FDA) August 21, 2021
In a company statement released earlier this year, the pharmaceutical company Merck that makes Ivermectin said, in part, that its analysis identified "no scientific basis for a potential therapeutic effect against COVID-19 from pre-clinical studies."
Dr. Michele Libman is the owner of Treasure Coast Urgent Care. The day WPTV visited, her office had a 73% positivity rate of patients tested.
"It's just still spreading like wildfire," she said. "But I would say the majority are unvaccinated and it's just frustrating to me as a physician."
Libman said she's had mixed results prescribing Ivermectin to more than a dozen unvaccinated COVID-19 positive patients.
"I've had a handful of patients that have definitely felt that it helped them and that they felt better pretty rapidly, and then I've also had some patients that really didn't see much difference," Libman said. "I have anecdotal evidence that it's been helpful. I don't see a downside. It's cheap, little side effects."
WPTV also asked Dr. Charles Hennekens about using Ivermectin to treat or prevent COVID-19.
"I think it would be tragic if people took Ivermectin or Hydroxychloroquine instead of, say, getting the vaccine," he said.
Hennekens is a researcher and epidemiologist at Florida Atlantic University's Charles E. Schmidt College of Medicine.
"There's basic science that suggests that there's a reduction of the viral load of the COVID-19 virus and some uncontrolled clinical observations suggesting benefit, but we have no randomized double-blind placebo control trials of sufficient size and duration to show any efficacy of this drug," he said.
Hennekens said prescriptions of Ivermectin have increased 11-fold since COVID-19 arrived in the U.S. and that has him concerned.
"What I fear is that the use will continue, even in the absence of reliable evidence, and when it's used as an alternative to things that I know will save their lives, then I'm doing more harm than good by not speaking up," he said.
Abernethy showed WPTV some of the boxes from his two-year supply that he bought outside of the U.S. He's hopeful it'll keep him swimming with the sharks, even though the FDA has not approved it to treat or prevent COVID-19.
"I absolutely believe that Ivermectin has saved me," Abernethy said.