OPINION - The government needs to take charge of the debate about the effectiveness of Ivermectin as a drug that can possibly treat the coronavirus instead of allowing political parties and civil society's narrative to influence public opinion.
Since the South African Health Products Regulatory Authority (SAHPRA) banned the use of Ivermectin by Covid-19 patients, health workers, civil society formations and opposition political parties have challenged the government in various platforms to allow the use of the low-cost and potentially beneficial drug.
They argue that the state should review its policy on Ivermectin, because there is no definite treatment or drug to treat coronavirus patients or to stop the virus from spreading.
Others have provided a body of evidence from other countries that proves the effectiveness of the drug to treat coronavirus patients.
The government needs to realise that by keeping quiet, the matter is not going to go away, and illegal smuggling of the drug will persist as members of the public are desperate to try any form of treatment available. There is already enough evidence that Ivermectin is being distributed illegally in the country following the arrest of a man found in possession of the drug at King Shaka International Airport and the raid of a Durban hospital by the Hawks following allegations the drug was being illegally prescribed to Covid-19 patients at the facility.
While all this is happening, the government, led by President Cyril Ramaphosa, the Minister of Health Dr Zweli Mkhize and the National Coronavirus Command Council (NCCC) have remained mum on what was being done locally to test the effectiveness of Ivermectin in treating Covid-19 patients.
Make no mistake, we are not advocating for the use of Ivermectin and its efficacy to treat Covid-19 patients is unknown to us, but in the absence of a vaccine that is yet to reach our shores, people are getting desperate and will not stand aside when their loved ones are losing their lives.
It is not enough for SAHPRA to say the drug cannot be administered on humans. It needs to rally scientists together to conduct proper research on Ivermectin efficacy against Covid-19 as a matter of urgency.
We appeal to the authorities to lead this debate and not to allow space for conspiracy theory to take root at a time when we should be fighting this invisible enemy.