"Is it too much to ask of the DoH and the IATF to be pro-active for once and take that extra step?"
As fate would have it, just as the administration was being bombarded from all sides last week for its seeming inability to stem COVID-19 infections after more than a year in various levels of lockdown, comes this barrage of information about a so-called "wonder drug" which, if we go by the reports, could potentially put an end to the fears and recriminations over this ravaging virus which have enveloped the country no end.
That drug is ivermectin and it has been at the center of heated exchanges involving not only WHO, government health agencies and research-cum-medical institutions but doctors and researchers of all types and stripes.
So what is ivermectin and why should anybody even bother to check it out as a possible COVID-19 drug?
The latest (March 31, 2021) WHO guideline on this drug states: "Ivermectin is a broad spectrum anti-parasitic agent included in WHO essential medicines list for several parasitic diseases. It is used in the treatment of encho cerciasis (river blindness), strongyloidiasis and other diseases caused by soil transmitted helminthiasis. It is also used to treat scabies."
It then proceeded to advise that the current evidence on the use of Ivermectin to treat Covid 19 patients of any severity "...is inconclusive ..and that ..until more data is made available, WHO recommends that the drug be used within clinical trials.." This is where the controversy lies as a number of doctors, researchers and organizations, here and abroad, have reacted quite strongly to this latest advisory.
Arguing that a "neither for or against" stance from the world health agency is a complete disservice to humankind and amounts to an abandonment of the institution's role as the ultimate repository, if not the arbiter, on the wisdom and use of of medical and health knowledge, these groups have proceeded to present their own studies, analyses and even treatment records for the world to see.
In so short a time, these groups have enlisted quite an army of believers specially since the WHO has somewhat moved the goal post, so to speak, on ivermectin from its earlier advisory, completely banning the use of the drug on COVID-19 to its latest "neither for or against" note.
That the same March 31 advisory also indicated that the WHO guidance development group of experts limited their study only to COVID-19 infected patients whether inpatient or out patient and only to determine "whether ivermectin reduces mortality, need for mechanical ventilation, need for hospital admission and time to clinical improvement" and never on its use to prevent COVID-19. In a word, there was never any WHO directed study on the prophylactic use of ivermectin.
Thus, those advocating its use focused on this possibility which has somewhat gained prominence in recent days specially since the WHO list of recommended therapeutics has been iffy and swinging at best. Some like corticosteroids has been strongly recommended for severe or critically ill COVID-19 patients but conditionally recommended against its use for patients with mid/moderate Covid 19 infection. Another drug, remdesivir, which was earlier okayed by our very own FDA as the "gold standard" for treatment was given a "conditional recommendation against its use" by no less than the WHO.
Closer to home, our own group of doctors and specialists under the Concerned Doctors and Citizens of the Philippines (CDC-Philippines) have undertaken their own research and studies on the safe and effective use of ivermectin as a prophylactic and have brought this to the attention of the regulatory agencies all the way to Malacanang. After all, as the CDC-Philippines statement noted this has been used for 40 years specially as an anti-parasitic deworming drug.
Coupled with testimonials from those who have actually used ivermectin for sometime the literature on this drug as another weapon against, at the very least, the spread of Covid 19, has gotten thicker by the day it behooves the FDA, the DoH and even the DOST to put together their best minds to fast track its examination for possible use against this deadly disease.
If that means getting the latest information out of the research studies undertaken by Monash University in Australia which confirmed the efficacy
of ivermectin as a prophylactic in "in vitro" situation so be it. If it means co-funding that Monash University research for actual trials and undertaking part of that in the Philippines there should be nothing wrong with that.
If it means taking the testimonies, studies and actual usage of the drug from the files of the US based Front Line Covid Care (FLCC) group of doctors, researchers and specialists which has been very vocal and active in its promotion of ivermectin not only as a prophylactic but even as a cure then that should be undertaken as well.
Under the circumstances and given the expected delay in the roll out of our vaccination program is it too much to ask of the DoH and the IATF to be pro-active for once and take that extra step to get ivermectin, a drug which has been in human use for forty years, the light of day? If, in the end, it is found out that it has just a tinge of efficacy as a weapon against COVID-19 why should that be a problem. At least, we tried and, might I add, dewormed those who participated in our trials.