An Oklahoma doctor claims rural hospitals have been overwhelmed with ivermectin overdose patients so much that gunshot victims are having trouble finding immediate care.

Dr. Jason McElyea, an ER physician in Sallisaw, shed more light with KFOR on the dangers of ivermectin —an antiparasitic drug that is being studied as a potential treatment for COVID-19. Though the medication is widely used to kill parasites in livestock, it has also been prescribed to humans since the late 1980s. The Centers for Disease and Prevention Control reported a significant increase in ivermectin prescriptions over the past month but reminds the public that the drug has not been approved to treat COVID-19.

“There’s a reason you have to have a doctor to get a prescription for this stuff, because it can be dangerous,” McElyea told the outlet. “The ERs are so backed up that gunshot victims were having hard times getting to facilities where they can get definitive care and be treated.”

He continued: “All of their ambulances are stuck at the hospital waiting for a bed to open so they can take the patient in and they don’t have any, that’s it. If there’s no ambulance to take the call, there’s no ambulance to come to the call.”

Health experts have warned the public not to take ivermectin without a prescription, and point out that the animal formulations of the drug could result in serious side effects for humans. McElyea suggested that at least some of the ivermectin overdose patients were taking medication intended for livestock, despite warnings from medical experts.

“Growing up in a small town, rural area, we’ve all accidentally been exposed to ivermectin at some time. So, it’s something people are familiar with. Because of those accidental sticks, when trying to inoculate cattle, they’re less afraid of it,” he said. “Some people taking inappropriate doses have actually put themselves in worse conditions than if they’d caught COVID.”

McElyea said the ivermectin overdose patients have experienced a wide range of symptoms, including nausea, vomiting, and vision loss.

“You have to ask yourself, ‘If I take this medicine, what am I going to do if something bad happens?’ What’s your next step, what’s your backup plan?” he added. “If you’re going to take a medicine that could affect your health, do it with a doctor on board. Make those decisions with a thoroughly vetted opinion. There’s a lot of schooling that goes into that. It’s not just something you look on the internet for and decide if it’s the right dose.”