MANILA, Philippines — The World Health Organization (WHO) is not advocating the use of anti-parasitic drug Ivermectin for the treatment or prevention of COVID-19, its country representative told House lawmakers on Tuesday.
According to WHO Representative to the Philippines Rabindra Abeyasinghe, prescribing Ivermectin without statistically significant evidence of its efficacy against COVID-19 is “harmful” since it would give “false confidence” to the public.
This comes as several lawmakers, during a House health committee hearing on Tuesday, pushed for the use of the medicine for COVID-19 treatment and prevention.
“The issue with the Ivermectin is that based on initial study and the currently available data, it is not strong enough for us to advocate the use of Ivermectin for treatment of COVID or prevention of COVID,” Abeyasinghe said.
“We looked closely at the European Medical Association, they concluded the same thing, we looked at the U.S. FDA (Food and Drug Administration), they concluded the same thing…What they are recommending is that we look at carefully-planned, controlled clinical trials to have proof that Ivermectin works,” he added.
“That is the global evidence that we have, not only from WHO, but also from very stringent regulation authorities and medicines authority both in Europe and in North America,” he further said.
The House committee, chaired by Quezon Rep. Angelina Helen Tan is probing, among others, the regulation of the anti-parasitic drug. The Philippines’ FDA and the Department of Health (DOH) earlier cautioned against its use to treat COVID-19.
FDA said the animal drug had not been approved by the agency for the treatment of viral infections in humans. But it also said those who want to take the drug may apply for a compassionate special permit to do so.
“Without proof, what we are actually creating is a false confidence that if they take Ivermectin, they are going to be protected and that could actually be harmful. That is why it requires a carefully-planned clinical study to understand whether this has a protective efficacy,” Abeyasinghe went on.
“That evidence is currently not available globally,” he added.
The WHO official noted that an initial report, which originated from a study in Australia, was made on Ivermectin’s efficacy to suppress the development of the virus that causes COVID-19.
“They use the concentration of Ivermectin that is a magnitude higher, meaning almost 1,000 times higher than what is normally used in humans,” he said.
“And at this concentration in the laboratory, it showed that Ivermectin can suppress the virus replication now it had very small scale studies following this initial,” he added.
But in countries where Ivermectin is recommended for human consumption, Abeyasinghe said “the results of the Ivermectin trial were statistically not significant.”
“If you are looking at the total number of COVID patients in the world today, many people have not yet been infected, so we could assume that people who drink water are protected from COVID, we could assume that people who took ivermectin are protected, but that’s not evident,” he said.
“It needs to be statistically significant. We had a similar situation with hydroxychloroquine, a few months ago, and then after the solidarity trial, none of them had any efficacy in reducing the severity or in protecting COVID-19 infection,” he added.
Nevertheless, Abeyasinghe said there is still “room to look for evidence” to prove whether or not Ivermectin is effective for COVID-19 treatment and prevention.
“We have to be very careful that if we’d want to go and do a clinical trial, it needs to be registered as a clinical trial, it needs to be designed so that it has adequate statistical significant power to generate the evidence if it is effective,” he said.
“If we can do that, our position there is still room to look for that evidence and if we can see that evidence then we will be in a better position to decide on Ivermectin,” he added.
For more news about the novel coronavirus click here.
What you need to know about Coronavirus.
For more information on COVID-19, call the DOH Hotline: (02) 86517800 local 1149/1150.
The Inquirer Foundation supports our healthcare frontliners and is still accepting cash donations to be deposited at Banco de Oro (BDO) current account #007960018860 or donate through PayMaya using this link .
Subscribe to INQUIRER PLUS to get access to The Philippine Daily Inquirer & other 70+ titles, share up to 5 gadgets, listen to the news, download as early as 4am & share articles on social media. Call 896 6000.