A 45-year-old drug at the center of a new controversy is showing some popularity on darknet markets.
Ivermectin, a medication used to treat parasitic infections in both humans and animals, is now being marketed as a covid-19 combatant on the dark web. The drug was recently touted by comedian and podcaster icon Joe Rogan as an ingredient to overcoming his quick bout with the illness, which caused the FDA to issue a stern reminder that it had not yet been approved as a treatment.
Most darknet market listings for ivermectin come with the same boilerplate language, including something of a vague and potentially controversial claim:
“By taking Ivermectin, it means the body can fight the infection like normal, because its antiviral response hasn’t been reduced by the viral proteins.”
While some markets have policies that strictly forbid the sales of anything specifically related to covid, ivermectin has medicinal use in the treatment of bacterial infections and is thus not usually excluded from listing. Other markets, such as Dark0de, have chosen to embrace covid as an opportunity, even designating a specific category for it.
Dark0de, ToRReZ and Empire Market had about a dozen listings for different brand variations of the drug, with the most popular known as Stromectol. Versus market had a single listing for Stromectol with no sales, and several others had none. At $0.40 to $0.60 per milligram on average, prices for most listings were highly competitive with pharmacy generics, with some Americans reportedly paying far more for the drug under their health insurance plan.
Most vendors of ivermectin claim to ship out of India or Singapore. One vendor, going by the name thebodyshop, has managed to rack up several ivermectin sales across multiple markets, with some customers even confirming their satisfaction with the order.
Prior to the rise of ransomware-related attacks earlier this year, the mainstream media’s darknet market focus was on the rise of covid-related items for sale which totaled an estimated $100 million across 25 markets before the end of 2020. In March 2021, the World Health Organization (WHO) warned against the rise of fake COVID-19 vaccinations for sale on the dark web.
In the United States, poison control centers across the country are currently witnessing surges in reports of ivermectin overdoses. Although ivermectin has demonstrated some efficacy in the prevention and treatment of covid-19, doctors caution that its unmonitored usage could result in overdose or exacerbated side effects. Some of the drug’s side effects include eye pain, skin rash, confusion, fast heart rate, and loss of bladder control.
The FDA first cautioned against the use of ivermectin to treat covid-19 in March, noting that large doses of the drug are “dangerous and can cause serious harm.”