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University of Nebraska Medical Center

An Ivermectin Influencer Died. Now His Followers Are Worried About Their Own ‘Severe’ Symptoms.

(Vice) Danny Lemoi took a daily dose of veterinary-grade ivermectin and told his thousands of followers to give the drug to children. He died of a common side effect of the medication.

Just before 7 am on March 3, Danny Lemoi posted an update in his hugely popular pro-ivermectin Telegram group, Dirt Road Discussions: “HAPPY FRIDAY ALL YOU POISONOUS HORSE PASTE EATING SURVIVORS !!!”

Hours later, Lemoi was dead.

For the last decade, Lemoi had taken a daily dose of veterinary ivermectin, a dewormer designed to be used on large animals like horses and cows. In 2021, as ivermectin became a popular alternative COVID-19 treatment among anti-vaxxers, he launched what became one of the largest Telegram channels dedicated to promoting the use of it, including instructions on how to administer ivermectin to children.

But despite Lemoi’s death, the administrators of his channel are pushing his misinformation—even as his followers share their own worrying possible side effects from taking ivermectin and some question the safety of the drug.  

Lemoi, a heavy equipment operator who lived in Foster, Rhode Island, “passed away unexpectedly” on March 3, according to an online obituary post by his family last week. He was survived by his parents and brother. The obituary gave no details about the cause of his death.

In the Telegram channel, administrators broke the news of his death to his followers. “Though it was obvious that Danny had the biggest heart, it was unbeknownst to him that his heart was quite literally overworking and overgrowing beyond its capacity, nearly doubled in size from what it should have been,” the admins wrote, adding: “We understand that this is going to raise questions for those who were following him.”

The admins added that Lemoi had undergone testing on his heart last year, but the results had shown no cause for concern.

Lemoi began taking the version of ivermectin designed for animals on a daily basis in 2012, after he was diagnosed with Lyme disease, according to a detailed account of his medical history he gave on a podcast last November. He said then that five months after first taking the drug, he quit all other treatments and believed ivermectin had “regenerated” his heart muscle. 

During the pandemic, Ivermectin became hugely popular among anti-vaxxers, many of whom were taking and recommending the veterinary formulation of the drug, rather than the one designed for human use. While ivermectin for humans is used to treat serious illnesses like river blindness, it has repeatedly been shown to be an ineffective treatment for COVID-19.

And according to the Missouri Poison Center, ingesting large doses of ivermectin formulated for animals has a long list of side effects, including seizures, coma, lung issues, and heart problems. Veterinary ivermectin is not a cure or effective treatment for COVID, the FDA has repeatedly warned, and is highly concentrated because it is designed for large animals like horses and cows. “Such high doses can be highly toxic in humans,” the FDA cautions.

“Danny was fully convinced that his heart had regenerated after his incident with Lyme disease that almost ended in congestive heart failure,” the admins wrote, before claiming that “a family history of heart disease and chronic stress” were why his heart had ultimately become engorged. “All of his other organs were unremarkable,” the admins wrote. “And this was determined to be a death by unfortunate natural causes.” 

The admins of Lemoi’s channel did not respond to VICE News’ questions about where they got their information about his death. Lemoi’s surviving family did not respond to VICE News’ request for comment on the cause of his death.

But a review of Lemoi’s Telegram channels shows that many of his followers who are taking his dosage recommendations, or “protocols,” for veterinary ivermectin are experiencing numerous known side effects of taking the drug.

“I’m 4 months now and all hell’s breaking loose, all pain has hit my waist down with sciatic, shin splints, restless leg syndrome, tight sore calves & it feels like some pain in the bones,” a member wrote on Friday.

Lemoi explained away the negative side effects of taking veterinary ivermectin by describing them as “herxing,” a real term to describe an adverse response that occurs in people who take antibiotics as a treatment for Lyme disease.

“My wife has been taking ivermectin for 3 months,” a member wrote Friday. “She is being treated for autoimmune hepatitis, thyroid, and vertebrae issues. She has had some serious HERXING. Today she has a migraine, vomiting and severe stomach pain. Does anyone have any ideas how to help, and are these HERXING symptoms?”

Some members of the group are taking ivermectin not only as a treatment against COVID, but as a cure-all for almost every disease—from cancer and depression, to autism and ovarian cysts—believing that every disease is caused by a parasite that is removed from the body by ivermectin, just as animals are given the drug to treat parasitic worms like tapeworm.  Lemoi also formulated an ivermectin regimen for children, and numerous members of the group reported that they were using it. This week alone one member wrote that she had established another group for “parents of children on the spectrum, cerebral palsy, pans/panda, downs etc.,” who are using the Lemoi’s recommended children’s dosage.  

When some members of the group blamed Lemoi’s death on ivermectin, they were criticized in the Telegram channel; their fellow group members claimed they were spreading misinformation.

​​“No one can convince me that he died because of ivermectin,” one member wrote this week. “He ultimately died because of our failed western medicine which only cares about profits and not the cure.”

Despite Lemoi’s death, administrators said this week the Telegram channel would live on, and the group is attracting new members who continue to take ivermectin despite suffering serious side effects.

“I am very new to this… I’ve been on Bimectin paste for 20 days,” one new member wrote on Friday morning, explaining that he too was suffering from Lyme disease. “I have severe chest pain. Costochondritis symptoms. Air hunger, internal tremors, brain fog, headaches on the back of my head, anxiety, depression, doom and gloominess.”

7 comments

  1. Kathryn Rene' Griffin says:

    When I realize how truly stupid so many people are, it discourages me about the fate of our nation. Ivermectin is for large ANIMALS and can cause all sorts of terrible side effects (including death) in humans.

  2. Monte Edward says:

    Think for yourself, do your own research and talk to your doctor. Ivermectin is not experimental and has been prescribed for human maladies for decades. Obviously the dosages that MDs prescribe are much lower than what veterinarians prescribe for large animals.The average dosage does not exceed 25 mg per day, depending on the weight of the person.

    1. James Lawler says:

      Ivermectin is a great drug – just not for treating COVID-19. While a handful of studies early in the pandemic suggested that ivermectin might be helpful for the treatment of COVID, multiple large and well-executed randomized, placebo-controlled clinical trials subsequently have provided overwhelming evidence that ivermectin provides no benefit in the treatment of COVID in developed countries. I do wonder whether a high rate of co-infection with helminths (worms) in some developing countries may have contributed to the benefit in some of the early studies, because we know that COVID often results in suppression of the immune system and susceptibility to new or recurrent opportunistic infections, such as strongyloidiasis. If I were treating a COVID patient in a developing world country with a high rate of strongyloides infection, I would consider giving ivermectin concurrently with anti-viral for SARS-CoV-2 like Paxlovid or remdesivir. But the ivermectin would be treating the worms, not the COVID. For treating COVID in places where we have incredibly low rates of helminth infections, studies make it clear that ivermectin provides absolutely no benefit. If you pull all placebo-controlled RCT’s from the National Library of Medicine database (PubMed), you get a good picture of the evidence. Here is a list of all these placebo-controlled, randomized controlled trials categorized by result – most of them have open access, so you can read them:

      No Evidence of Clinical Benefit

      Naggie et al – pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/36269852/

      Bramante et al – https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/36070710/

      Reis et al – https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/35353979/

      Lopez-Medina et al – https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/33662102/

      Lim et al – https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/35179551/

      Vallejos et al – https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/34215210/

      El Shafie et al – https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/35788169/

      De la Rocha et al – https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/36482326/

      Mirahmadizedah et al – https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/35738778/

      Manomaipiboon et al – https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/36028897/

      Buonfrate et al – https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/34999239/

      Evidence of Virological benefit; No Clinical Benefit

      Biber et al – https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/35811080/

      Ahmed et al – https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/33278625/

      Evidence of Clinical Benefit

      Shahbaznejad et al – https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/34052007/znejad et al – https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/34052007/

      As you can see, the only RCT that appeared to show clinical benefit of ivermectin was a small study from Iran, that analyzed 35 patients in the treatment (ivermectin) group. Two studies (from Bangladesh and Israel) that analyzed fewer than 70 ivermectin-treated patients showed some evidence that viral clearance was faster, but there was no clinical (symptoms or outcome) benefit. The rest of the studies, enrolling far more patients, showed no clinical benefit from ivermectin. The first two studies are quite strong, led by Duke University and University of Minnesota respectively, enrolling almost 3,000 patients between them. These studies also looked specifically at severe COVID, hospitalization, and death, which the Biber, Ahmed, and Shahbasnejad studies were not able to do. Reis et al, a 3,500 participant RCT in Brazil, also looked at hospitalization and severe COVID, again finding no benefit.

      As you can see, the clinical evidence showing no benefit from ivermectin treatment is exceptionally strong.

      Nevertheless, I have often seen the statement, “Well, you don’t know for sure that it doesn’t work, and since the drug is safe, what’s the harm?” I would argue that the trials actually have proven definitively that ivermectin is not an effective treatment for COVID. However, let’s say you reserve an outside chance that the drug could be helpful in some cases – why not give it? I would argue that there are three rational arguments why we should not give ivermectin.

      First, although ivermectin has a very good safety profile, that doesn’t mean it never causes harm. We have extensive experience giving the drug to mostly younger and healthier patients to treat helminth infections, and it has low rates of adverse events in that population. However, many COVID patients we treat are older and higher risk, having multiple co-morbidities and long lists of outpatient medicines. We have less experience with ivermectin in this group. Even assuming we maintain a very low rate of adverse events, if we are treating millions and millions of persons, we are still going to get many (likely dozens or hundreds) rare but significant adverse events that will harm people without offering any benefit.

      Second, people who hear about the benefit and use of ivermectin will inevitably attempt to self-treat, often with formulations made for animals and not humans. These formulations may have dramatically different concentrations/dosing and other ingredients that may be harmful. In fact, we know this has happened based upon multiple reports of ivermectin toxicity incidents from people self-treating.

      Third, and likely most importantly, seeking and receiving treatment with ivermectin probably delays or altogether eliminates therapy with drugs that we know have very good efficacy in reducing severe disease from COVID. If you get treatment with ivermectin, you are not going to get immediate treatment with Paxlovid or remdesivir. We already know that Paxlovid reduces progression to severe COVID by 90% in those who receive early treatment. Remdesivir has similar efficacy for outpatient treatment. Anything that delays or prevents this effective treatment is doing harm.

      So, the logic is pretty clear. If you have COVID, you should seek treatment, particularly if you are higher risk for severe outcome. That treatment should be Paxlovid if possible. If not, remdesivir is a good second option, and molnupiravir is probably your third choice. There might be some other adjunctive options – data on metformin is interesting. But these first three clearly have the best evidence for efficacy.

      James Lawler, MD, MPH, FIDSA
      Global Center for Health Security
      University of Nebraska Medical Center

      1. Bill p says:

        Now it comes out after trials that ivermectin is indeed a good treatment plan against Covid ,even better than the vaccine hmmm

        1. James Lawler says:

          Hi Bill,

          Please see our latest post on Ivermectin as a treatment for covid here https://www.unmc.edu/healthsecurity/transmission/2023/12/11/about-ivermectin/

  3. Mary C Forbus says:

    I am shocked at this ignorance about IVM and the calculation of dosage. It’s based on weight for horses and humans. IVM is the 3rd safest drug on the WHO list. Remdesivir has truly killed patients.It was never studied! The drug was given an EA anyway as was the jab. I will not call it a vaccine. You should be ashamed. Do your own research

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