'Political, not medical': Garin hits grant of compassionate use of Ivermectin to hospital

'Political, not medical': Garin hits grant of compassionate use of Ivermectin to hospital
This April 11, 2020 photo shows personnel preparing beds at the quarantine facility in the Philippine International Convention Center.
The STAR / Edd Gumban

MANILA, Philippines — A former health secretary hit on Thursday the Food and Drug Administration's move to grant compassionate use for Ivermectin to a hospital, calling it a "big joke" that appeared to be more political than medical.

The local regulator announced earlier today that it issued the said permit for a hospital that it did not disclose further details on.

It comes at a time when the veterinary drug is being touted by some, including a lawmaker, as a possible COVID-19 treatment. This is despite warnings by the FDA, the Department of Health and the World Health Organization that taking the Ivermectin could pose serious negative effects.

READQuick questions—and answers—on anti-parasitic drug Ivermectin

"Issuing a compassionate use permit for just one hospital but saying it cannot be distributed and used for COVID-19 treatment in general seems to be more of a political accomodation than a medical decision," said Rep. Janette Garin (Iloilo) in a statement, reported by News5.

What is a Compasisonate Special Permit?

A compassionate special permit (CSP) allows doctors or hospitals to use unregistered medical products for limited off-label use. A specialized institution or speciality society will be the only ones to file a request for CSPs.

Garin, who was health chief during the Benigno Aquino III administration, said it is only given as last resort, and administered to dying patients only "where risks of an experimental drug are outweighed by current situation."

The Aquino administration has been criticized over the rollout of the Dengvaxia vaccine, which allegedly led to the deaths of some children. The health department has maintained that there is no evidence that the vaccine caused the deaths. The controversy has contributed to vaccine hesitancy in the Philippines.

The FDA earlier said the only registered oral and intravenous preparations for Ivermectin are veterinary products, and are only approved for use to prevent heartworm disease and treat internal and external parasites.

What is currently available in the Philippines for human use is in topical formulation, which is used to treat head lice and skin conditions such as rosacea.

Repeated warnings have not stopped Rep. Mike Defensor (Anakalusugan party-list) to announce that his office will distribute the Ivermectin to Quezon City residents.

"This kind of decision by the FDA should not be allowed," Garin said, partly in Filipino. "Decisions should always be backed by science. We are dealing with public health."

She also appealed to business owners and entrepreneurs to not take advantage of the ongoing crisis and people's desperation to treat the deadly disease. "Let's not fool our countrymen. Do not abuse and capitalize on the fear they are feeling from the COVID-19."

The WHO has said that there remains no significant evidence to show that Ivermectin could treat those infected. Its representative to the Philippines, Dr. Rabindra Abeyasinghe, warned too that taking this could give people false confidence that they are already safe. — Christian Deiparine with reports from Gaea Katreena Cabico, and News5/Marianne Enriquez

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