No significant evidence Ivermectin can help vs COVID-19, WHO warns

Christian Deiparine - Philstar.com
No significant evidence Ivermectin can help vs COVID-19, WHO warns
The lobby of Amang Rodriguez Memorial Medical Center in Marikina City is jam-packed with people as patients seek medical checkup on March 19, 2021.
The STAR / Michael Varcas

MANILA, Philippines — Allowing the use of Ivermectin as a possible treatment for COVID-19 could lead to "false confidence" for those who take it, the World Health Organization's representative to the country said Tuesday.

Dr. Rabindra Abeyasinghe's warning came as he said there is no significant data yet to prove that the drug, used in veterinary medicine, will work to treat COVID-19 patients. 

Specifically, he addressed members of the House of Representatives' committee on health that called for a hearing over its use. 

"We could assume that people who drink water are protected from COVID-19. We could assume that people who took Ivermectin are protected," Abeyasinghe said. "But that's not evident [and] it needs to be statistically significant."

To recall, both the Department of Health and the Food and Drug Administration have advised the public against using the Ivermectin, as the agencies warned that it can cause serios harm as these are "often highly concentrated and can be highly toxic to humans."

Still, at the House hearing, two members who contracted the COVID-19 but have since recovered supported its use — Rep. Mike Defensor (Anakalusugan party-list) and Rep. Enrico Pineda (1-PACMAN party-list).

Neither of them are doctors.

At one point, Defensor said he took the Ivermectin when he was infected, and claimed that he got better after. He also urged the FDA to approve a compassionate use permit for it when Dr. Allan Landrito of the group Concerned Doctors and Citizens of the Philippines applies for it.

Abeyasinghe said the opposition to use Ivermectin is not only backed by data from WHO, but also from the European Medical Association, and the United States' FDA. 

He recalled too a similar situation last year with the anti-viral drug hydroxychloroquine, whose use in the country was stopped after the WHO suspended clinical trials for it. 

Ivermectin, Abeyasinghe added, needs "carefully planned and controlled" clinical trials to prove if it indeed works.

"We do recognize the urgency to find something," he said. "[But] without that proof, what we're actually creating is a false confidence that if people take ivermectin, they're going to be protected and that could actually be harmful."

Health Undersecretary Maria Rosario Vergeire, who was present in the hearing, reiterated a position by various medical groups including the Philippine Medical Association, the University of the Philippines' National Institutes of Health, to name a few, that the drug does not "significantly reduce" mortality risks among mild to severe COVID-19 patients. 

"Ivermectin was not associated with a definite benefit in terms of other clinically important outcomes such as clinical improvement at Day 6 to 10," the statement read.

The groups added that it also did not significantly reduce the duration of hospitalization, as well as the time to resolution of symptoms for the COVID-19.

Despite advising against its use, it remains to be seen if the FDA would bare its teeth at those who would distribute unregulated medicines as prohibited by law.

To date, no one has been held accountable for the illegal vaccination of personnel the Presidential Security Group in 2020 with smuggled Sinopharm jabs.

As the controversy heightened in December of last year, medical experts warned that failure to impose sanctions on those responsible could set a bad precedent for the country. 





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