The World Health Organization (WHO) has reiterated earlier statements debunking claims saying ivermectin can cure or prevent COVID-19, maintaining that such kind of misinformation only distracts from the more pressing work at hand in controlling the pandemic.
“The fight against the infodemic has been even more difficult now than the fight against the pandemic,” Dr. Rabindra Abeyasinghe, WHO Representative to the Philippines, said during Malacanang’s televised press briefing today.
With COVID-19 cases surging amid delays in the government’s vaccination efforts, claims about the efficacy of alternative medications such as ivermectin has been gaining ground in chat groups and internet forums.
Henry Lim Bon Liong, president of the Federation of Filipino-Chinese Chambers of Commerce and Industry, admitted in an online presscon last month that he has taken ivermectin as a preventive drug against COVID-19. A group of businessmen has also reportedly written to the Malacanang to consider ivermectin as a COVID-19 treatment drug. A recently released “public service statement” from a group calling itself the “Concerned Doctors and Citizens of the Philippines” also passionately tried to make the case for Ivermectin, alluding even to corruption and powerful institutions as the culprit why ivermectin is not being used for COVID-19.
And just today, Anakalusugan party-list Rep. Mike Defensor announced that he will be distributing ivermectin in Quezon City.
There have been situations where this kind of misinformation has been driving and impacting on the capacity of national governments to respond to the pandemic because they are seriously distracting technical people from doing what they need to do.
But the WHO said that absent any conclusive trial attesting to the efficacy of the drug against COVID-19, ivermectin should not be recommended.
“There have been situations where this kind of misinformation has been driving and impacting on the capacity of national governments to respond to the pandemic because they are seriously distracting technical people from doing what they need to do,” said Abeyasinghe.
Abeyasinghe said that anecdotal stories of people feeling better after taking ivermectin should not be taken at face value as there is no scientific proof to establish causation.
“Let us remember that with COVID-19, many patients recover because it’s a viral disease without any specific treatment provided they have good immune systems. The vast majority or 95% recover without specific treatments, so if you give those people a particular drug, then say that that particular drug cured them, that’s not science,” said Abeyasinghe.
“If we have the evidence, we will be ready to share. In the meantime, let us focus on what we know works,” added Abeyasinghe.
Even the company making ivermectin, the multinational pharma company Merck, released a statement last Feb. 4 saying there is “no scientific basis for a potential therapeutic effect against COVID-19 from pre-clinical studies.”
Previously, even the US Food and Drug Administration also stated that ivermectin should be avoided for the prevention of COVID-19.
Presidential spokesman Harry Roque, meanwhile, said that an application for the “compassionate use” of ivermectin has been filed at the FDA.
A “compassionate use” license is used for an experimental drug that has no authorization to be used on a patient with a life-threatening condition when no other alternatives are present.
For now, the only license of ivermectin in the country is for animal use as veterinary products.