6 arrested after police seize ivermectin worth R6m at OR Tambo

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A general view of the drug Ivermectin.
A general view of the drug Ivermectin.
(Photo by Gallo Images/Ziyaad Douglas)
  • Six people have been arrested and charged for carrying unregistered medicine and importing drugs without a licence.
  • According to police, the suspects were found in possession of "tablets suspected to be ivermectin".
  • Ivermectin, an anti-parasitic drug, has generated significant attention because some people claim it is a potential cure for Covid-19.

Customs officials at the OR Tambo International Airport have seized hundreds of thousands of tablets of a drug some people claim can be a remedy against the coronavirus, police said on Saturday.

The police said in a statement that "tablets suspected to be ivermectin", worth six million rand, had been seized at the airport in the past two weeks.

Six suspects have been arrested, and charged with carrying unregistered medicine and importing drugs without a licence, the statement said.

"The unregistered medicine, which are mainly in tablet form, are believed to have been imported for sales purposes and would have been utilised in the treatment of the Covid-19 virus," it said.

ALSO READ | Regulator issues guidelines for compassionate-use access for ivermectin

Ivermectin is an anti-parasitic agent, which some people claim is a potential cure for the novel coronavirus.

Demand for the drug has surged as a result, even though scientists insist there is not yet enough evidence to promote it as a coronavirus remedy.

The SA Health Products Regulatory Authority tentatively approved the controlled use of ivermectin on humans this week, revoking a decision in December to block imports of the drug, which is not locally produced.

The ban sparked outrage among doctors lobbying for more research into ivermectin, and fuelled its underground trade.

Ivermectin is mainly used to kill parasites, such as head lice on both animals and people, and has been widely distributed in sub-Saharan Africa since the 1990s to treat river blindness.

It is usually registered for veterinary use in South Africa, but is not forbidden for humans.

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