A growing chorus of medical professionals wants the mass distribution of ivermectin to stop as some Filipinos are being made more vulnerable to COVID-19 due to a false sense of protection from taking the anti-parasitic drug, which has yet to be proven as effective against the coronavirus.
In a virtual press briefing held today by the Philippine College of Physicians (PCP), all of the resource persons called for sobriety and asked the public to wait for the scientific verdict on whether ivermectin works against COVID-19.
The virtual press conference was held after the PCP released a statement stating that it “strongly opposes the dispensing of unregistered drugs, like ivermectin for indications that have not been scientifically established.” The Philippine Pharmacists Association also issued a statement opposing “the irrational dispensing of an unregistered drug.”
Last Thursday, April 29, Anakalusugan Party-list Rep. Mike Defensor and Sagip Party-list Rep. Rodante Marcoleta gave out free ivermectin capsules in Quezon City.
"Hindi tayo basta-basta dapat gumawa ng mga bagay na 'di pa aprubado kasi kulang pa ang ebidensiya," said Dr. Mario Panaligan, President of the Philippine College of Physicians. "Sa mga tao na nagbigigay nito, isang panawagan na itigil na muna kasi ayaw din namin magbantay ng mga nagkakasakit pa lalo dahil nagiging pabaya yung mga tao na iniisip na posibleng maging epektibo ito kasi wala pa naman tayong ebidensiya kung talagang nakakatulong ito."
Panaligan said that in the hospital where he practices, a number of COVID-19 patients were admitted after they have grown lax upon taking ivermectin believing the drug will ward off the virus.
"Dahil kampante sila, nakakalimot yung mga dapat pag-iingat sa hangin, sa mask, physical distancing. Dahil sa pag-inom ng ivermectin, nahahawa at nagiging mas malala dahil nagigin mas kampante sila so yun ang nakakatakot. Posible silang magkasakit pa lalo," said Panaligan.
Dr. Regina Berba, associate professor at the University of the Philippines-Philippine General Hospital, called the mass distribution of ivermectin “a disturbing event that needs to be addressed.”
“May 44 countries pa na ongoing ang trials so napakarami pang groups na naghahanap ng sagot kasi kung alam na natin itong sagot, itong mga country na ito titigil na sila na study," Berba said.
During the Laging Handa press briefing early today, Dr. Jaime Montoya, executive director of the Department of Science and Technology - Philippine Council for Health Research and Development said the local trials for ivermectin will begin by the first week of June at the latest and will cover non-severe COVID-19 patients in isolation facilities.
"Lahat ng ito na kailangan nating gawin kailangan manaig ang good science at good regulation," Berba said, referring to clinical trials for ivermectin.
The Food and Drug Administration has granted five unnamed hospitals a compassionate use permit for the use of the experimental drug, which is commonly used in animals. The permit, however, is of limited use, with the FDA issuing a number of statements reiterating the lack of scientific evidence to prove ivermectin's efficacy against COVID-19.
"We'd like to reiterate that the Department of Health and the FDA do not recommend the use of the antiparasitic drug ivermectin for the treatment of COVID-19 due to insufficient scientific evidence," FDA director general Eric Domingo said during the press conference.
"Kailangan po natin ng matibay na siyensiya at ebidensiya bago natin gamitin ito at payagan ng FDA at DOH. Sana lahat tayo makinig lang sa datos at tumingin lang sa evidence."