THE Department of Health (DOH) yesterday issued a stern warning against the illegal distribution to the public of the controversial anti-parasitic drug, Ivermectin, as a coronavirus disease (COVID-19) treatment.
In a virtual press briefing, Health Undersecretary Maria Rosario Vergeire said Republic Act No. 9711, or the Food and Drug Administration Law, describes as an illegal act the distribution or dispense of unregistered drug products.
“The law provides that the manufacture, importation, exportation, sale, offering for sale, distribution, transfer, promotion or advertising or sponsorship of health protocols without proper authorization of FDA is prohibited. I think that is self-explanatory,” Vergeire said.
Vergeire issued the statement on the heels of the announcement by AnaKalusugan partylist Rep. Mike Defensor that he will be providing Ivermectin to residents of Quezon City for free.
The move, Defensor said, aims to arm the public against the COVID-19 while waiting for their turn in the inoculation program of the national government.
The DOH urged the public to shun such offers of unregistered drug products like Ivermectin.
“We would just like to advise the public that if you take unregistered drugs, the government cannot assure that this can be safe for you and it is going to really protect you from that specific disease it claims to treat,” said Vergeire.
The FDA has said that that there are no approved Ivermectin products in the country, except those for animal use.
Currently pending is the application of Lloyd Laboratories Inc. for a certificate product registration (CPR) before the FDA.
Defensor stood his ground and slammed the DOH for its warning.
“E kung kayo kaya DOH at FDA ang kasuhan ko (What if I charge you DOH and FDA) for reckless imprudence resulting to homicide for the 13,817 COVID deaths!” Defensor said in a Facebook post.
The lawmaker said the DOH is making it even harder for the people to fight the pandemic.
“Grabe talaga! Hindi na nga nakakatulong ginigipit pa ang Ivermectin na gamot na maaring makatulong sa ating mga kababayan. Hindi ako takot na makulong kung buhay ng tao ang nakataya (It’s too much! While they are not being helpful, they are even pulling all stops to block Ivermectin evem if it could help our people. I’m not afraid to be jailed when people’s lives are at stake),” Defensor said.
The National Immunization Technical Advisory Group (NITAG) said the public should exercise caution in using Ivermectin due to the lack of credible proof that it is effective against COVID-19.
Dr. Minette Claire Rosario, a member of the NITAG panel, said clinical trials should first be done using the medicine, apart from a thorough review of the use, components and effect of Ivermectin on humans.
Rosario said even the World Health Organization (WHO) has already issued an official statement that they have not seen any proof on how Ivermectin could be effective against COVID-19.
“Just like a vaccine, there should be a discussion, a talk with their doctors about the possible side effect. It may be effective to one, but there could have been side effects, which could be worse,” Rosario said.
Malacañang had advised the public to wait for the decision of the FDA on the current application for compassionate use of Ivermectin against COVID-19 to ensure that the drug is safe and effective. – With Wendell Vigilia and Jocelyn Montemayor