CAPE TOWN - Doctors are urging people not to take Ivermectin as a treatment for Covid-19 if they have bought it off the black market or if they have managed to obtain the parasiticide for animal use.
A general practitioner from Durban, Dr Naseeba Kathrada, who headed a petition urging President Cyril Ramaphosa to set up an urgent special council to conduct a rapid review of the drug, said that while the drug was easily available on social media, she recommended people not take it.
“If you get access to Ivermectin, please don’t take it the way you’ve been told to take it by a lay person. As a medical doctor, I am pleading with you to not take something where you don’t know what the contents are and if you have not been given advice to take it from a medical professional,” said Kathrada.
The SA Health Products Regulatory Authority (Sahpra) has held firm that Ivermectin is not registered for human consumption and is registered by the Department of Agriculture for use in animals only.
“Sahpra occasionally grants Section 21 permits for the use of topical Ivermectin as an unregistered product for the treatment of individual patients with conditions such as scabies or head lice,” it says on its website.
The process to obtain one of the permits was time consuming, said Kathrada. Front-line doctors who were focused on helping patients and trying to save lives did not have the time for lengthy paperwork.
“Sahpra does have a set of rules you have to follow to administer Ivermectin, but I have tried to do two and, over the space of two days, I wasn’t even able to complete one,” she said.
A pulmonologist from Melomed Gatesville, Dr Bilal Abdool Gafoor, said neither was the evidence convincing nor was Ivermectin a proven miracle cure.
"Even if it does work, it seems to work on a select few – the phenotypes of which have not been characterised. The dosing in the trials has been inconsistent and not standardised,“ he said.
The South African Medical Association chairperson Dr Angelique Coetzee said that if a person bought Ivermectin from the black market or consumed the liquid solutions for animals, they were putting themselves in possible danger.
“If you buy it from the black market, you won’t be sure what type of generic it is. Not all generics are the same, so you don’t know what you are buying and how much Ivermectin is in the pill or the solutions,” she said.
Kathrada said she knew that desperate people were buying Ivermectin from co-ops or vets.
“The black market will be flooded, and how do we know that people who are buying it from the black market are taking the pure Ivermectin for human use? But if you put the control back to the doctors, then we can manage it.
“Once the drug is approved, I will go so far as to say that the first million tablets should be free. That way, we know that it is authentic, the government has provided it and it will crush the black market,” said Kathrada.