Govt restricts Ivermectin use only for “investigational” COVID-19 treatment

THE authorisation of use and importation of Ivermectin — an anti-parasitic drug — to treat COVID-19 patients by the Government is primarily for investigative purposes and is an acceptable standard practice in medicine globally, Chief Coordinator of the national response to the COVID-19 pandemic in the Office of the President and Cabinet, Dr Agnes Mahomva, has clarified.

Last week, the Government approved the use of the drug for “investigational” COVID-19 treatment following intense lobbying from primary care physicians, who argued that the fusion of Ivermectin and nanosilver was effective in caring for patients.

In her weekly COVID-19 update, Dr Mahomva said the drug should only be administered and dispensed in controlled environments.

“Let me take this opportunity to remind you all, including our doctors, that all medicines, whether they are new or old, routine or investigational, must be registered with the Medicines Control Authority of Zimbabwe (MCAZ) before they can be used or prescribed,” she said.

“At the beginning of the month, MCAZ in its circular 5 of 2021 advised medical doctors and other healthcare workers against use of unapproved veterinary Ivermectin for prevention of COVID-19 in humans.

“In a more recent communication, MCAZ provided detailed guidance indicating that investigational medicines for COVID-19 such as Ivermectin, that is the kind for humans, are to be used under controlled and structured environments with specific settings and strict monitoring to avoid wanton and indiscriminate prescription and dispensing of such medicines.”

She said this approach was meant to protect patients from unethical and unsafe doses, as well as counterfeit products, including veterinary Ivermectin.

“The use of approved and registered medicine for a new disease for which that particular medicine was not originally developed – the off-label approach – is an accepted approach at both global and local level but in specific settings and under strict monitoring.

“The key message here is that if you are using that medicine for a new disease, it needs to be monitored carefully.

“This is done to protect the patient.”

Doctors argue that without Ivermectin and nanosilver, Zimbabwe’s death toll from the deadly COVID-19 could be significantly higher.

In a letter addressed to the Medicines Control Authority of Zimbabwe last week, acting Health and Child Care Permanent Secretary Robert Mudyiradima said: “In these difficult times of COVID-19 treatment, we have to be careful to protect patients as well as not to deny them effective treatment regimes.

“It is in this regard, the authority is hereby granted for you to proceed to allow importation and use of these medicines under the supervision and guidance you outlined.

“Ivermectin can be evaluated for both treatment and prophylaxis.” 🔺

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