The Department of Health has reiterated that Ivermectin products in the country remain for veterinary use, in response to the drug being touted by some lawmakers and business people as a possible treatment for Covid-19.
The World Health Organization has already said that there is no significant evidence to prove that claim, and that the drug would still need to undergo clinical trials. The DOH has stressed that from reviews by medical groups, Ivermectin does not reduce the mortality risk of mild to severe Covid-19 patients, neither does it shorten the duration of hospitalization, and the time of the resolution of symptoms.
Despite these warnings, Rep. Mike Defensor (Anakalusugan party list) has said in a Facebook post and in a message to reporters that his office would give out the drug to Quezon City residents for free, especially to senior citizens and those with comorbidities. The congressman, who is neither a doctor nor a scientist, said in a House hearing last week that he took Ivermectin when he tested positive for Covid-19. He claimed he got better after, and based on that anecdotal evidence, has urged regulators to approve applications for compassionate use of the drug.
Ivermectin is a veterinary anti-parasitic drug. It is available for human use in the country as a topical treatment for head lice and skin conditions, such as rosacea. The only registered oral and intravenous preparations of the drug are veterinary products and are only approved for use to prevent heartworm disease and treat internal and external parasites.
Although licensed pharmacies can compound Ivermectin for human use as long as a doctor prescribes it, there is no sufficient data showing that it is effective in treating Covid-19.
WHO country representative, Dr. Rabindra Abeyasinghe, said taking the Ivermectin could create a “false confidence” that people would be protected against Covid-19. Adding more weight to the opposition, he said the advice against using it is not only by Philippine regulators and the WHO, but also from the US FDA and the European Medical Association.
As the country struggles with a massive surge in Covid-19 cases, Filipinos are getting desperate. However, it would be best to wait for the results of major clinical trials before using drugs like Ivermectin. While anecdotal evidence may be available, those claims are not backed by science. Until then, waiting for those drugs that go “viral” on social media and peddled by non-science-based snake oil salesmen to be tested and proven both effective and safe, would be the most prudent route to take.*