FDA to lead drive vs illegal ivermectin, says Malacañang

PRESIDENT Rodrigo R. Duterte has ordered the country’s drug regulator to lead the government’s campaign against the illegal sale of the veterinary drug ivermectin, which is being repackaged in the Philippines as a treatment against the coronavirus.

The Food and Drug Administration (FDA) has been directed “to take the lead in determining the course of action against the illegal trading/dispensing of ivermectin” to ensure the safety of the public and avoid institutional conflicts, presidential spokesperson Herminio “Harry” L. Roque, Jr. said in a statement on Wednesday.

Mr. Roque said the police “cannot arbitrarily determine on their own which drugs should not be on the market.” “All operations to apprehend or seize goods must be done in coordination with the FDA,” he added.

“What is being ordered to stop is the sale/trade of ivermectin for veterinary use that has been repackaged as human grade, including those that have not been determined by competent authorities as safe to be used in humans,” Mr. Roque said.

He said the President is closely monitoring developments concerning Ivermectin.

Mr. Duterte has ordered his management staff to give him weekly updates on “Ivermectin studies and FDA-related clearance,” Mr. Roque said. Philippine authorities have said registered ivermectin drugs are only for veterinary use.

At least two hospitals in the country have been given a compassionate use permit to use the drug to treat coronavirus patients.

Science and Technology Secretary Fortunato T. de la Peña on Monday said the Philippines would hold trials to determine whether ivermectin could be used to treat coronavirus patients. The Department of Health and the FDA earlier said there is no evidence that ivermectin could reduce deaths among patients with mild to severe COVID-19 (coronavirus disease 2019) cases.

Ivermectin did not also significantly reduce the duration of hospitalization based on some studies, they said. Health authorities also said the rate of hospitalization discharge “did not differ significantly” between those that were given the drug and the placebo group.

There was also no evidence that ivermectin could prevent coronavirus infections, they said, citing the World Health Organization.

The agencies said ivermectin products registered in the country were for veterinary use and were only allowed to treat animals suffering from parasites and heartworm. — Kyle Aristophere T. Atienza