MANILA – There is not enough data yet that could prove the effectiveness of anti-parasitic drug Ivermectin in treating the coronavirus disease 2019 (Covid-19), Malacañang said on Tuesday.
Presidential Spokesperson Harry Roque issued the statement a day after Anakalusugan Party-list Rep. Mike Defensor announced in a Facebook post that he will lead the free distribution of Ivermectin in Quezon City.
Roque, in a virtual press briefing, advised advocates of Ivermectin to wait for the Food and Drug Administration’s (FDA) approval for the antiparasitic drug’s compassionate use before encouraging the public to use it as a preventive medicine against Covid-19.
He added that Ivermectin is only commercially available for veterinary use.
“Ang Ivermectin naman po kasi, rehistrado siya pero hindi pantao at for a different purpose, hindi pang-Covid. Pero para sa Covid-19 eh wala pa po tayong datos na nagpapakita na talagang epektibo siya (Ivermectin is registered but not for human use and it is for a different purpose, not in treating Covid-19. For Covid-19, there is no data yet that could prove its effectiveness),” Roque said.
In an announcement uploaded on his Facebook account, Defensor said people with comorbidities and senior citizens will be prioritized in the distribution of Ivermectin.
Roque, however, said FDA’s approval is needed before using Ivermectin as an alternative treatment to Covid-19.
“Ang aking pakiusap, hintayin na lang po natin kasi mabilisan naman po iyang desisyon ng FDA na iyan. Hindi naman po magtatagal iyan. At ito naman po ay para sa ating interes din dahil kinakailangang mapatunayang mabisa, epektibo at ligtas itong gamot na ito para sa Covid-19 (My appeal is to wait for the FDA’s decision because it will be released soon. It will not likely be delayed. And this would serve our interest by making sure that the drug is effective and safe to use against Covid-19),” he said.
Potential brain damage
FDA director general Eric Domingo on Tuesday said distributing unregistered products sans a doctor’s prescription is against the law.
The FDA and the Department of Health in a joint statement noted that Ivermectin, based on the current evidence from randomized controlled trials, is not recommended for the treatment of Covid-19 and its use for the coronavirus disease “has to be evaluated through clinical trials.”
University of the Philippines-National Institute of Molecular Biology and Biotechnology Director and Department of Health Technical Advisory group member Dr. Edsel Salvaña also warned that taking Ivermectin in high doses could cause brain damage.
“Sa ganiyang mataas na dose po puwede po magkaroon ng brain damage ang isang tao at puwedeng mamatay kung ma-overdose ng todo-todo (A person who takes high doses [of Ivermectin] may have brain damage and die when he gets overdoses),” said Salvaña, who joined Roque in the virtual presser.
Quizzed if Defensor could be held liable over free distribution of Ivermectin, Roque refused to give any legal advice on the issue.
“I will not give a legal advice on something na (that) I am not engaged professionally,” said Roque, who is also a lawyer.
The registered Ivermectin products in the country can only be used for certain animal species to treat internal and external parasites, as well as prevention of heartworm disease. (PNA)