What does it treat?
Ivermectin is used in animal health against a range of internal and external parasites. It is also approved by the World Health Organisation for the treatment of river blindness and scabies, among other ailments.
Ivermectin and COVID-19
The WHO’s guidance, issued on March 31, 2021, states that:
“The current evidence on the use of ivermectin to treat COVID-19 patients is inconclusive.”
Until more data is available, the WHO recommends that the drug only be used within clinical trials.
In many jurisdictions, including the United States, authorities are against the use of ivermectin for COVID-19.
The US Food and Drug Administration warns against the use of ivermectin against COVID-19.
“While there are approved uses for ivermectin in people and animals, it is not approved for the prevention or treatment of COVID-19,” the FDA says.
“Any use of ivermectin for the prevention or treatment of COVID-19 should be avoided as its benefits and safety for these purposes have not been established.”
However, an April 2020 research article by Australian scientists said laboratory tests had shown that ivermectin “is an inhibitor of the COVID-19 causative virus.”
The scientists, however, urged further investigations into ivermectin.
Divided expert opinion
In Zimbabwe, as in many other countries, ivermectin has divided expert opinion.
On January 8, 2021, the MCAZ issued a statement warning against the use of veterinary ivermectin.
On 20 January, 2021, the Medical and Dental Practitioners Council of Zimbabwe (MDCZ), a statutory body regulating the practice of medicine and dentistry in the country, issued a statement warning against the use of ivermectin.
“There has been widespread advertising on social media by some medical practitioners claiming to be able to treat COVID-19 using ivermectin, doxycycline and nanosilver,” “We would like to make the record straight that ivermectin is an old drug used to treat parasitic infections and is not currently registered by the Medicines Control Authority of Zimbabwe for the treatment of COVID-19 patients,” the council said.
“There are several ongoing studies looking at the safety and effectiveness of this drug in COVID-19 treatment. So far, no evidence has come out to warrant its registration and widespread use to treat COVID-19 patients.”
But a 24 January, 2021 letter by the College of Primary Care Physicians asked the government to allow the use of ivermectin, and nanosilver, for treatment of COVID-19 patients.
“Due to our constant perusal of the medical evidence we noticed the signals around ivermectin in August 2020, largely in third world countries like ours. We feel comfortable using this drug which has been around for 40 years, is on the WHO essential drugs list and has an excellent safety profile,” the 23 physicians wrote.
“We understand that it is currently not registered in Zimbabwe but we will fill out Section 75 forms for non-registered drugs all the time in the course of our practice. We heard from colleagues in South Africa who were using ivermectin with excellent results, although they too were losing occasional patients who presented late.”
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