The President on ivermectin
"To hem and haw on this matter, as has been the stance of the DoH and FDA for months on end, borders on the criminal."
Now that President Duterte has ordered the conduct of clinical trials on the possible use of the anti-parasitic drug ivermectin as a prophylactic or even cure for COVID-19, it behooves the DoH, DOST, and FDA to provide all the necessary assistance to the expert group led by the University of the Philippines to move this undertaking with all deliberate speed.
As we have been saying all along, we are in the midst of a pandemic requiring those tasked to alleviate our situation to be more proactive in the search for treatment of this deadly disease. To hem and haw, as has been the stance of the DoH and FDA for months on end, already borders on the criminal.FDA Director General Eric Domingo cannot forever ask the public to be patient and for doctors especially those in the frontlines to be more prudent in prescribing possible treatments against this invisible foe. It has been more than a year since we got embroiled in this crisis and patience is thinning out across the board. If, as the Chief Executive himself noted, there is just an “iota of evidence” showing that ivermectin can in fact be useful, then we should move forward and find ways for the public to access it in an as fast and most reasonable manner as possible. Indeed, as he noted, if there are doctors and experts willing to stake their credibility and their careers on this drug, then we should at least give them the benefit of any doubt.
Retired UP School of Medicine Professor and leading pharmacologist Dr. Romeo Quijano was even more categorical in saying that the DoH and the FDA have been less than truthful in their declarations against the use of this “wonder drug.”
Quijano noted that for decades the drug has consistently been included in the list of essential drugs and that it was only after the patent held by the original manufacturer, Merck, expired and the company could no longer squeeze any profit from it that it was taken off the list. And only because Merck has since stopped advising the FDA and DoH about it.
It is Doctor Quijano’s considered view—as shared by a growing community of doctors, public health practitioners and experts as well as the general public -- that in an emergency such as the world is now experiencing, government, as well as medical professionals, should be proactive in looking for ways to stem the tide, still the fears and enhance the hopes of our people for deliverance.
Insisting that ivermectin is used only for animals and is dangerous to use for humans is a total lie. In fact, as Quijano himself noted, for decades it has been in use in humans and continues to provide a high margin of safety for a growing number of indications.
Numerous studies report low rates of adverse events as an oral treatment for parasites that even the WHO has recommended its mass administration for filariasis, saying it is safe and effective. Billions of doses of the drug have been administered in mass campaigns for the prevention and eradication of various diseases. Closer to home, Ivermectin has been used for mass deworming campaigns since the Marcos years without any reported adverse effects.
Hiding behind a plethora of laws and regulations to prevent the use of ivermectin only weakens the arguments of the oppositors. The fact that the government has already declared a state of emergency there is no way that the legal impediments cannot be overcome. If the DoH and the FDA are so enamored with the law they should be instructed to refer to the law on health emergencies which, among others, orders the government to proactively secure treatments to overcome the crisis and, yes, even mandates doing away with patents and related work outs to manufacture the drugs needed for the purpose.
And if Duque, Domingo, and their ilk need any more proof to bolster their unwarranted fears and apprehensions about ivermectin, and to clear their minds about the science behind this drug’s efficacy as repurposed in the fight against Covid 19, they can ask their staff and their cohorts to check the latest paper entitled “Review of the Emerging Evidence Demonstrating the Efficacy of Ivermectin in the Prophylaxis and Treatment of COVID- 19” authored by frontline doctors and experts which has been published, meaning peer-reviewed, in the May-June 2021 (Volume 18) issue of the prestigious American Journal of Therapeutics (AJT). At least they can be updated and hopefully, properly educated, on the ongoing global studies and trials on the use of Ivermectin as one of the treatments against COVID-19.