Health professionals want crackdown on illegal Ivermectin sale, say self-medicating or off-label use dangerous

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A group of Malaysian health professionals today urged the government to crackdown on the illegal sale of Ivermectin, adding that only medicines which are approved based on scientific evidence should be approved. — Reuters pic
A group of Malaysian health professionals today urged the government to crackdown on the illegal sale of Ivermectin, adding that only medicines which are approved based on scientific evidence should be approved. — Reuters pic

KUALA LUMPUR, June 26 — A group of Malaysian health professionals today urged the government to crackdown on the illegal sale of Ivermectin, adding that only medicines which are approved based on scientific evidence should be approved.

The Malaysian Health Coalition said that the same stringent process and high standards must apply to Ivermectin, which they lamented has an active black market, selling unapproved and potentially harmful doses.

“A scientific process with high standards is the basis of evidence-based medicine. This is the fundamental way for health professionals to protect patient safety and health.

“Currently, Ivermectin is not approved for human use in Malaysia.

“Ivermectin from veterinary supplies or unknown sources are sold at very high prices. We support cracking down on illegal or black market Ivermectin, because we support safe medicine prescriptions for all Malaysians,” the group made up of 19 medical organisations and 10 senior doctors said.

They said that there is substantial public pressure on the National Pharmaceutical Regulatory Agency (NPRA) to approve Ivermectin immediately, with some supporters of the drug even even asking for it to be mass-distributed immediately to prevent Covid-19 infections.

However, the group said that the NPRA process must be followed “without political or public interference.”

“Ivermectin must be approved based on evidence. Ivermectin should not be approved based on ‘popular demand’ or police reports. No country has approved Ivermectin to treat or prevent Covid-19, including neither the European Medicines Agency nor the United States Food & Drug Administration,” the group added.

They pointed that the World Health Organisation had advised that Ivermectin can be used only in clinical trials, adding that here in Malaysia, the I-TECH study is ongoing in high-risk Covid-19 patients, with results of the study expected in January 2022.

“In the meantime, any self-medicating or off-label use of Ivermectin could be dangerous and it could distract from the National Covid-19 Immunisation Program. We strongly believe that vaccines are much more effective to prevent Covid-19 than Ivermectin.

“As health professionals, we have a duty to protect the public’s health. This means that we must respect the scientific process of approving medicines in Malaysia. We stand for the safe and evidence-based use of medicines, and we stand against illegal, unsafe or misleading use of any medicines,” they added.

A major pharmacy chain had on Wednesday, warned the public against taking the anti-parasitic drug, following wild claims by its proponents on its effect towards Covid-19.

Alpro Pharmacy Group, which touts itself as the biggest prescription pharmacy chain in the country, said that at present, the drug is not approved for human usage in Malaysia, and is only limited and available for use on animals and pets.

On May 16, Health director-general Tan Sri Dr Noor Hisham Abdullah said the use of Ivermectin has not been approved by the ministry, due to a lack of scientific studies to prove its efficacy.

Both the ministry and its Institute for Clinical Research commenced clinical trials early this month to study Ivermectin’s effects and effectiveness in treating high-risk Covid-19 patients at 12 government hospitals.

Last Wednesday, a clinic in KL was raided by the ministry for supplying Ivermectin to its patients and claiming that it may prevent Covid-19.

No worldwide health body has approved the use of Ivermectin to treat Covid-19 or as preventive measures, and countries which have previously allowed it like India have since retracted their decisions.

In Malaysia, the drug is being pushed among others by those opposed to the vaccines, alternative medicine practitioners, and some Muslim groups.

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