- The Food and Drug Administration in the US has urged the public to stop using livestock drug ivermectin to treat Covid-19.
- In South Africa, ivermectin is registered for use in animals.
- Reacting to the FDA's warning, Wits professor of vaccinology Shabir Madhi says there is no scientific evidence to support its use for the treatment of Covid-19 in humans.
There is no robust scientific evidence to support
the use of ivermectin for the treatment of Covid-19, says University of the
Witwatersrand professor of vaccinology, Shabir Madhi.
He was reacting to the recent warning from the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) in the US about the use of the drug, which is meant for animals. In South Africa, ivermectin is registered for use in animals, which allows veterinarians and other trained personnel to prescribe it as an anti-parasitic agent for a variety of animals.
"[The] bottom line is that there is no robust scientific evidence to support its use as prophylaxis or treatment of Covid-19. Last week saw the retraction of the original meta-analysis that suggested that there might be some benefit. However, it's been retracted, as one of the major studies that influenced the results has been uncovered to being scientifically flawed," he said.
He referred to a tweet by senior visiting research fellow at the University of Liverpool's pharmacology department, Dr Andrew Hill, that the original research which suggested ivermectin might benefit humans has been withdrawn due to the scientifically flawed studies it relied on.
Our meta-analysis of survival for ivermectin had to be retracted after one of the main studies was suspected of medical fraud. With the revised version, there is no statistically significant survival benefit for ivermectin. So the original version should not be quoted— Dr Andrew Hill (@DrAndrewHill) August 16, 2021
In a statement, the FDA said using any unapproved drug could cause serious harm, adding that ivermectin was not an antiviral drug.
"There seems to be a growing interest in a drug called ivermectin to treat humans with Covid-19. Ivermectin is often used in the US to treat or prevent parasites in animals. The FDA has received multiple reports of patients who have required medical support and been hospitalised after self-medicating with ivermectin, intended for horses," the health authority said in the statement.
The drug has been touted locally and some medical practitioners have been dispensing it for the treatment of Covid-19.
Earlier this year, the Ministerial Advisory Committee (MAC) on Covid-19 wrote to the Ministry of Health to advise against the use of the drug on the basis that it was not registered for human use and that there was no scientific evidence to show that it was effective.
In responding to growing calls to have ivermectin approved, the SA Health Products Regulatory Authority (Sahpra) said there was no sufficient scientific evidence on its efficacy for the prevention or treatment of Covid-19.
"We wish to assure the public that Sahpra has been and will continue to monitor emerging data regarding the use of ivermectin for the treatment of Covid-19. Sahpra has received no application for the registration of an ivermectin-containing medicine for Covid-19," CEO Boitumelo Semete-Makokotlela said.
The drug paralyses and kills parasites in animals, Sahpra noted.
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