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Blame government for black market Ivermectin boom, says doctor

A health worker shows a bottle of Ivermectin. Picture: Luis Robayo/AFP

A health worker shows a bottle of Ivermectin. Picture: Luis Robayo/AFP

Published Jan 21, 2021


Cape Town - The price of “miracle” Covid drug Ivermectin has increased so much that buyers are now threatening to expose sellers of the drug.

Just a few weeks ago, an Ivermectin pill was retailing for R10, but now prices are ranging from R250 up to R500 per pill and a pack of 10 pills costs between R1 500 up to R3 000 on the black market.

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The exorbitant prices are attributed to the increasing demand from thousands of South Africans who are desperate to get their hands on the 'life saving' drug.

A week ago, close to 100 South African healthcare professionals, signed a petition appealing to President Cyril Ramphosa to set up an urgent special council to conduct a rapid review of the antiparasitic drug Ivermectin.

In South Africa, Ivermectin is registered under the Department of Agriculture for use in animals. As such, it is illegal for people who do not have permits or are not trained to use it, to have it in their possession.

Easy access

While you may need the dark web to buy illegal items like drugs, Ivermectin is easily and readily available on social media where sellers freely exchange contacts with potential clients.

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The selling and buying of the drug is mostly done online, especially on WhatsApp Covid support groups and Facebook groups supporting the usage of Ivermectin on humans.

South Africa Has A Right to Ivermectin (SAHARI) is one Facebook page which has become extremely popular for potential buyers and sellers. In less than three weeks the group’s membership has grown to nearly 50 000.

“We do not advocate for illegal use of medication. We advocate for recognised medication to be legalised, and guidelines to be shared to raise public awareness. Strictly no buying or selling medication,” the group’s legal disclaimer read.

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Shocking prices

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“To admin sorry but I need to put my point here. I have texted 2 different people from this group that are selling Ivermectin and it is shocking to see what they are charging. I am shocked that certain people that have Ivermectin tablets are selling a box of 10 for R1 000 and R1 800 to help save peoples lives. It's a disgrace,” said one member of the group.

Another commented with, “Yes I agree outrageous price, R600 for 10ml is what I was quoted by one person. So I don't have the money, because I haven't worked for a year due to Covoid19 and now I can't afford to buy the stuff that could save my life. Seriously everyone is climbing on the bandwagon of ripping people off because it's a wanted item now, as usual greed will be the downfall of all of us. Shame on you!”

“I also enquired about prices and members in this group inboxes me with prices ranging from R1 000 to R2 000. I thought we were here trying to help each other save lives. I can't believe how we look at every opportunity to make easy money. Certainly not in these circumstances. If anything we should be offering to help people and save lives. Karma will knock on those doors too,” commented another member.

Blame government for this

According to Durban-based general practitioner, Dr Naseeba Kathrada desperation is driving people to seek for this in the black market.

“If your loved one is sick and you have seen somebody die. You will do everything in your power to save yourself and other loved ones going through the same thing. I don't blame the people, I blame the government, we have been calling for this for so long, saying legalise Ivermectin,” she said.

Kathrada who penned the open letter to the president to set up an urgent special council to conduct a rapid review of the antiparasitic drug Ivermectin said we knew this was going to happen because messages on social media spread like wildfire.

“The longer we take to legalise it the bigger the problem it's going to be. They (police) confiscated 20 000 at the airport and I am told that is nothing compared to the amount available in the market,” said Kathrada.

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