COVID-19 fears cause rush on ivermectin

COVID-19 fears cause rush on ivermectin
Ivermectin is used to treat parasites in livestock and small-stock, such as sheep. Photo: FW Archive
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Many South Africans fearful of COVID-19 are reportedly throwing caution to the wind by orally consuming ivermectin-based products registered nationally only for administration to livestock in oral, injectable or pour-on formats.

According to various sources, demand for these products has recently soared to such an extent that they are now difficult to come by.

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Dr Gerhard Verdoorn, a renowned South African toxicologist who heads up the Griffon Poison Information Centre and is also the operations and stewardship manager of CropLife South Africa, said that he was especially concerned that people were dosing themselves with ivermectin-based animal products at rates far exceeding even the officially registered doses for treating parasites in livestock.

People must not drink ivermectin products for livestock; especially not the injectable and pour-on products. The pour-on alone contains excipients that can really cause havoc on your intestines. People tell me that stock remedy ivermectin is having no negative effects on them now. But ivermectin is a tough molecule that stays in your body for a long time. I want to see if the people taking stock remedy ivermectin now are going to have any health problems in six months’ time,” Verdoorn said.

He pointed out that he was not against the use of ivermectin as a potentially preventative or curative treatment for COVID-19, provided that the medication used has been specifically formulated by medical professionals for use in humans.

Verdoorn advised people to visit their doctor to request them to get permission from the relevant government entities to compound ivermectin into oral solutions or pills for safe use by humans.

Dr Peter Oberem, CEO of South African animal health products provider, Afrivet, also repeated his warnings to the public not to consume stock remedy ivermectin.

He added that he has appealed to the South African Health Products Regulatory Authority (SAHPRA) to urgently reconsider its prohibition on the marketing and use of ivermectin-based products for humans.

“People are desperate. One way to stop the illegal use [of stock remedy ivermectin by people] is for SAHPRA to acknowledge the [COVID-19] crisis and go to various organisations for their research on ivermectin’s efficacy against the virus. The issue is the risk-to-benefit ratio. People will not die from taking human-approved ivermectin products. But people are dying from COVID-19,” Oberem said.

A statement issued recently by SAHPRA said that the authority was aware that there were other countries where ivermectin was registered for use to treat parasites in humans and also where this human-use formulation was “being used off-label in the management of COVID-19 infections”.

“SAHPRA notes that, to date, there have been no positive recommendations for the use of ivermectin in the management of COVID-19 infections by any regulatory authority with which SAHPRA has reliance agreements […], and that the World Health Organization does not currently recommend the use of ivermectin for the treatment or prophylaxis of COVID-19 infections,” the authority’s statement said.

SAHPRA’s statement also said that the authority was considering enabling access to approved formulations of ivermectin intended for human use, “provided that such a request is supported by evidence for the indication requested and is justified based on a risk [to] benefit assessment that includes safety and clinical efficacy data”.

Oberem said that Afrivet and the South African Veterinary Association have jointly designed a brochure and poster that warn people not to consume stock remedy ivermectin-based products, and that this brochure and poster were being distributed to outlets of these products across the country.

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