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Experts weigh in on use of Ivermectin in treatment of Covid-19

Professor Salim Abdool Karim. | Bongani Mbatha /ANA

Professor Salim Abdool Karim. | Bongani Mbatha /ANA

Published Jan 12, 2021


DURBAN - South African epidemiologist and infectious diseases specialist Professor Salim Abdool Karim has warned against the administering of Ivermectin in the treatment of Covid patients.

In an interview with IOL on Tuesday, Karim said current evidence with Ivermectin is seriously inadequate for Ivermectin to be prescribed for Covid-19.

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"The Ivermectin available in South Africa is for animal use only. It would be professional misconduct for any doctor to prescribe it and any pharmacist to dispense it," he said.

Karim, who heads up the Ministerial Health Advisory Committee (MAC) on Covid-19, said until more robust evidence was made available, the routine use of Ivermectin either for the prevention or treatment of Covid-19 was not justified.

In a statement by the MAC, Karim said emerging evidence must be actively sought and carefully reviewed.

"Reports of clinical trials of Ivermectin for the prevention or treatment of Covid-19 must be closely watched, as they become available. As always, reports in peer-reviewed publications will be preferred.

“Effective messaging needs to be developed to communicate both to the general public and to health professionals that the use of unregulated products purporting to contain Ivermectin is risky and unethical at this stage. Unregulated distribution channels are at risk of the introduction of sub-standard and falsified products, which can be deleterious to human health," he said.

Last week, the SA Health Products Regulatory Authority (SAHPRA) said Ivermectin was not indicated or approved by the authority for use in humans.

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The drug, which has been dubbed as a Covid-19 "miracle cure" is a widely used drug for the treatment and control of parasites in animals and is used to treat several tropical diseases in humans not commonly seen in South Africa, as well as scabies and head lice.

According to SAHPRA, in SA Ivermectin is registered for use in animals. This means that veterinarians and other trained personnel are allowed to prescribe it as an antiparasitic agent for a variety of animals.

In an interview with the Mail & Guardian, deputy executive director of the Wits Reproductive Health and HIV Institute at the University of the Witwatersrand and a leading expert in virology, Francois Venter, said he supported the SAHPRA's decision not to approve Ivermectin.

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“Simply because some idiot doctor decided to give it to someone illegally and it worked … you know, most people get better with Covid. So somebody saying they gave it to someone and they got better, well, they will get better anyway.

“Your miracle drug might be doing absolutely nothing. In fact, it might cause harm. Like chloroquine for instance, where it just didn’t work and in some cases it actually could have caused harm. It’s really reckless to my mind to be rushing towards this without the adequate efficacy studies and safety studies in the local population," he said.

Read SAHPRA’s full stance on Ivermectin here.

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