Senate President Vicente Sotto III disclosed on Saturday, April 17, that he, too, is taking human grade ivermectin to protect himself from the novel coronavirus disease (COVID-19).
In an interview over radio DWIZ, Sotto echoed calls for the Department of Health (DOH) and the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) to approve the widespread use of the anti-parasitic drug for COVID-19 cure and prevention.
“Ako umiinom din ako (I am also taking it). [For] prevention. Once every two weeks,” the Senate chief said, citing testimonies of its supposed effectiveness as treatment and protection against the coronavirus infection.
The DOH and FDA has permitted the compassionate use of ivermectin for COVID-19 patients in two hospitals so far.
The FDA also allows the compounding of the investigational drug as prescribed by doctors. Doctors and pharmacies shall be accountable for the drugs dispensed to those who will take it.
Health experts, including the World Health Organization (WHO), however, raised concern over the use of ivermectin for COVID-19 due to the lack of strong evidence on its efficacy in as an anti-viral medication for humans.
Still, Sotto said he knew several people infected with COVID-19 who lost symptoms and tested negative for the virus after taking ivermectin.
Echoing statements from former Senate president Juan Ponce Enrile who also admitted taking ivermectin, Sotto said: “Walang pakialam ang FDA kung ano gusto kong ilagay ko sa katawan ko (The FDA has no business meddling with what I want to put in my body).”
Sotto claimed that critics of ivermectin and other pharmaceutical firms only sought to damage the reputation of the drug since it is cheaper than other products.
Besides from the compassionate use permits granted to two hospitals, the FDA currently allows the use of oral ivermectin to treat parasitic infections in animals. For humans, doctors may only prescribe topical ivermectin against external parasites and other skin conditions.
In February, US-based Merck, a manufacturer of ivermectin, issued a statement that their experts have to find any scientific basis that the drug has a “potential therapeutic effect against COVID-19 from pre-clinical studies.”
Merck also said that there is “no meaningful evidence for clinical activity or clinical efficacy in patients with COVID-19”, and that there is “a concerning lack of safety data in the majority of studies.”
The WHO had also warned against advocating its use against COVID-19.
“The mere fact that the use of prescribed ivermectin will not defintely mean that we are either protecting [the] people or making their COVID-19 symptoms less if they are already infected,” WHO representative to the Philippines Rabindra Abeyasinghe said during a House hearing last March 30.
“What we are actually creating is a false confidence to people that if they take Ivermectin they are going to be protected. And that could actually be harmful,” he stressed.