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'Stop using veterinary drug for COVID-19 treatment'

by Staff reporter
24 Jan 2021 at 22:33hrs | Views
THE Zimbabwe College of Public Health Physicians (ZCPHP) yesterday added its voice in calling for the total ban of controversial prescriptions and use of the veterinary drug, Ivermectin, which is reportedly being used by unscrupulous practitioners for COVID-19 treatment and prevention.

Its call follows widespread claims that the drug, which is licensed for veterinary use only, is now being prescribed by some medical personnel for treatment of COVID-19.

In a statement yesterday, the ZCPHP president Pamela Magande said the drug was not in the COVID-19 treatment guidelines, adding that it was worrying that it was being found on the formal and informal markets.

"We have reviewed the current scientific evidence and international guidelines on the use of Ivermectin for COVID-19 prophylaxis and treatment. Our conclusion is that while there were a number of studies of differing quality and relevance to this issue, there is no sufficient evidence to support its use," Magande said in her appeal to other regulatory bodies to also step up and put an end to the practice which is widely being touted as treatment for the coronavirus on various social media platforms.

"We appeal to the regulatory authorities, the Ministry of Health, the Medical and Dental Practitioners, the Medicines Control Authority of Zimbabwe (MCAZ) and the Pharmacist Council of Zimbabwe to immediately act in the interest of public safety and stop forthwith the prescription and use of Ivermectin for treatment and prevention of COVID-19," she said.

This is not the first drug that has been linked to COVID-19 treatment.

The malaria drug hydroxychloroquine also became popular after some medical practitioners claimed it could treat COVID-19.

However, the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) in June last year cautioned against the practice.

The FDA statement said: "Based on ongoing analysis and emerging scientific data, FDA has revoked the emergency use authorisation to use hydroxychloroquine and chloroquine to treat COVID-19 in certain hospitalised patients when a clinical trial is unavailable or participation is not feasible.

Meanwhile in South Africa, AfriForum has brought an urgent court application against the South African Health Products Rights Regulatory Authority (SAHPRA) and Health Minister Zweli Mkhize to ensure that ivermectin is available to doctors who want to prescribe it to treat Covid-19.

According to the civil rights group, SAHPRA has failed to approve applications by doctors, which were brought in terms of Section 21 of the Medicines and Related Substances Act – to have ivermectin approved for the treatment of Covid-19 patients.

READ | 20 million doses of Covid-19 vaccines are coming, says Ramaphosa

The application to the Gauteng High Court in Pretoria is brought on behalf of Dr George Coetzee and two patients.

In a letter to the SAPHRA this week, lawyers for the applicants indicated that three applications in terms of Section 21 had been submitted and should have been processed within 24-72 hours.

They had not received any response and a third patient had since died.

The parties are set to appear in court on Tuesday. SAHPRA, Mkhize and the health department have until Monday to oppose the application, should they wish to.

"Ivermectin is listed by the World Health Organization as an essential medicine, and it has been proven safe – also in children. Studies undertaken in among others the US, Argentina, India, Egypt and Spain all show that ivermectin has the potential to treat Covid-19 and reduce deaths," said AfriForum's research head Barend Uys.

Chairperson of the Board of the AfriForum-aligned Southern African Agri Initiative, Dr Theo de Jager, said that farmers were currently the largest consumers of veterinary medicine that contains ivermectin.

"More and more people are using these products, however, which causes challenges to farmers in terms of availability and affordability," added de Jager.

Clinical trial

In a guidance note earlier this month, SAHPRA  said it "encourages and supports all welldesigned, ethically approved, scientific studies designed to identify new or existing medicines that are used for the treatment or prophylaxis of Covid-19".

On Sunday, it was announced that FARMOVS, a wholly owned clinical research company of the University of the Free State (UFS), together with several medical and scientific experts at the university, were in the process of preparing a clinical trial protocol to determine the efficacy of ivermectin for Covid-19 in a randomised, controlled study according to the requirements of the legal professions, in order to submit it for approval to the relevant national regulatory authority.

"By participating in the preparation of the clinical trial protocol, FARMOVS and the UFS remain supportive of and committed to contributing to the development of treatments and treatment strategies to battle the Covid-19 pandemic," the university said in a statement.

Should the clinical trial protocol be approved by the relevant national regulatory authority, the UFS would apparently be the first university in South Africa to attempt such a study.

"The UFS is committed to rigorous science and evidence-based research, and both FARMOVS and the university fully support the published opinions and guidelines of the SAHPRA and the scientific advisory boards established by the scientific community, as well as the stance of the South African government on ivermectin for Covid-19."

Source - newsday