The South African Health Products Regulatory Authority while giving ivermectin the green light to be used in the treatment of Covid-19 in “controlled compassionate use”, has warned the public to be careful about self-prescribing the medication as there was still too little data on its efficacy
Durban – The South African Health Products Regulatory Authority (Sahpra), while giving ivermectin the green light to be used in the treatment of Covid-19 in “controlled compassionate use”, has warned the public to be careful about self-prescribing the medication as there was still too little data on its efficacy.
Speaking at a press conference on Wednesday, Professor Helen Rees, chairperson of Sahpra said the evidence for ivermectin “isn’t strong” and that was why they were taking the controlled and compassionate use of the drug.
During this phase – details of which will be announced in the coming days – the regulator will be collecting crucial data on the effectiveness of ivermectin in treating Covid-19 in humans.
“We will be collecting, particularly safety data and looking at that, but at least this will give time as we wait for better data to normalise the situation and to ensure that if doctors are using this lawfully that at least the quality of the product that they are choosing to administer is of good quality, which at the moment we have no guarantee and as I say that in itself is a safety issue,” she said.
The decision to allow the use of ivermectin comes in the wake of a Pretoria East doctor, George Coetzee launching an urgent application, together with two of his patients, for permission to be able to use ivermectin as a treatment.
The urgent application was due to be heard by the Gauteng High Court in Pretoria next week.
Although ivermectin has been available for human consumption in several countries for many years, it is only used in South Africa as a livestock drug.
It has, because of its illegality, become highly sought after – and expensive – on the black market where it’s price has soared.
Rees, however, said that while it is prescribed for human use in some countries “ just about every other agency, locally, and internationally saying the same thing; the evidence [for its use] isn’t strong”.
She said that she understood people’s desperation to protect themselves from the virus but said that people should be cautious about self-medicating on ivermectin.
“We don’t know if things work, and we don’t know if they don’t work, and that is [why we are going the route of] compassionate use, and that is why we desperately need to get decent data so that we can tell the community whether or not something is a good idea to take for self-medication, whether it’s for the prevention or treatment. [And] whether it’s safe in this context, or whether it’s not, we need that data and then we can give a definitive piece of guidance, but for people self-medicating at the moment, be very careful because we don’t have any information on the quality of what you might be taking, and that is the challenge that we have at the moment”.