Can Ivermectin be used vs. COVID-19?

Published April 1, 2021, 12:03 AM

by Analou de Vera

An anti-parasitic drug called Ivermectin is currently creating a buzz as a potential treatment for the coronavirus disease (COVID-19). However, health experts are not recommending this drug as a cure for the viral illness.

The Philippine Food and Drug Administration (FDA) said there were approved uses of Ivermectin for animals and people.

In a statement last March 15, the FDA said that the “registered oral and intravenous preparations of ivermectin are veterinary products which are approved for use in animals for the prevention of heartworm disease and treatment of internal and external parasites in certain animal species.”

Meanwhile, the registered ivermectin products for human use in the Philippines are in “topical formulations under prescription use only,” which is designed to treat external parasites such as head lice and skin conditions such as rosacea.

Both the FDA and the Department of Health (DOH) released a joint statement last March 17, emphasizing that Ivermectin is not approved by the FDA for treatment of any viral infection.

During the House Committee on Health’s inquiry on Tuesday, March 30, Anakalusugan partylist Rep. Mike Defensor claimed that he took ivermectin when he tested positive for COVID-19 and it made him “feel better” after.

During the same House inquiry, a doctor named Allan Landrito claimed that he has given Ivermectin to some of his patients who contracted COVID-19.

When asked by  House Committee on Health Chair Rep. Angelina Tan of the 4th district of Quezon, where did he get the ivermectin, Landrito answered: “I compounded it myself. I had bought pure Ivermectin from an importer and compounded it myself and gave it to my patients.”

Landrito was asked if he had a permit to compound drugs but he said he did not have. Tan said that there were laws that have to be followed.

“Yes that’s true. It has something to do with the safety of patients. I have not harmed any of my patients and I have been helping a lot of my patients. If they want to put me behind bars for this, it does not matter,” Landrito said.

“We are in the middle of the pandemic. I cannot have a scope of time to apply for those permits. My patients are begging me to treat them. I am just giving… prophylaxis to patients, early treatment,” he added.

World Health Organization (WHO) Country Representative Dr. Rabindra Abeyasinghe said that “based on initial study, and the available data, it is not strong enough for us to advocate the use of Ivermectin for treatment of COVID-19 or prevention of COVID.”

International organizations

The US FDA, in its website, is also not recommending the use of Ivermectin for COVID-19.

“While there are approved uses for Ivermectin in people and animals, it is not approved for the prevention or treatment of COVID-19. You should not take any medicine to treat or prevent COVID-19 unless it has been prescribed to you by your health care provider and acquired from a legitimate source,”  it said.

“Any use of Ivermectin for the prevention or treatment of COVID-19 should be avoided as its benefits and safety for these purposes have not been established,” it added.

It also warned possible side effects associated with Ivermectin that include: skin rash, nausea, vomiting, diarrhea, stomach pain, facial or limb swelling, among others.

The European Medicines Agency (EMA) is also against the use of ivermectin for the prevention or treatment of COVID-19.

“EMA therefore concluded that use of ivermectin for prevention or treatment of COVID-19 cannot currently be recommended outside controlled clinical trials,” it said in its official website.

“Further well-designed, randomised studies are needed to draw conclusions as to whether the product is effective and safe in the prevention and treatment of COVID-19,” it added.

Further studies needed

DOH Undersecretary Maria Rosario Vergeire underscored that more studies were needed to determine the efficacy of Ivermectin against COVID-19.

“Bukas ang DOH na makipagtulungan dito sa mga proponents ng Ivermectin para isagawa natin yung formal clinical trial. Para mas magkaroon tayo ng sapat na ebidensya kung talagang katanggap-tanggap itong gamot na ito para sa may sakit ng COVID-19 (The DOH is open to work with the proponents of ivermectin so that we can conduct a formal clinical trial. So that we can have more evidence on whether this drug is really acceptable for COVID-19 patients),” said Vergeire on Wednesday, March 31.

“Ang isang gusto kong ipaalala, I hope that people who are using this drug would not have that false sense of confidence na protektado na sila against COVID-19. As we say right now, the evidence is not complete yet. Hindi natin alam kung talagang naproprotektahan kayo or baka may ibang factors kung kaya kayo gumaling from COVID-19 (One thing I want to remind, I hope that people who are using this drug would not have that false sense of confidence that they are already protected against COVID-19. As we say right now, the evidence is not complete yet. We do not know if you were actually protected or if there were other factors that caused you to recover from COVID-19),” she added.