MANILA (UPDATE) - Despite repeated warnings by the country's Food and Drug Administration (FDA), AnaKalusugan Party-list Rep. Mike Defensor said he would proceed with distribution of ivermectin as protection against COVID-19, but adds he would give out the “human grade” of the veterinary drug.
On Facebook last Monday, Defensor said his office will prioritize distribution of the drug - which is used against worm infestations and parasites in animals - to the sick, especially senior citizens, in Quezon City.
The World Health Organization (WHO), European Medicines Agency, and the US FDA have all warned against the use of ivermectin against COVID-19. In the Philippines, registered ivermectin products are for veterinary use only, and are only allowed for the treatment of internal and external parasites as well as prevention of heartworm disease, the Department of Health said.
Ivermectin manufacturer Merck had said there is no scientific basis showing that the anti-parasite drug is effective against COVID-19.
Responding to media queries after his social media post, Defensor said the ivermectin he is giving out will be in capsule form. He claimed that the drug may be taken "once every 2 weeks" to either treat or prevent COVID-19.
In another Facebook post on Wednesday, Defensor said what his office intends to provide for free are "human grade" ivermectin, as he took exception to a report he was giving out veterinary drug ivermectin.
"Isang malaking FAKE NEWS ang pinapakalat ng ABS-CBN na ang ipinamimigay ko na Ivermectin ay isang veterinary drug. Wala pong doktor ang mag-peprescribe ng gamot na para sa mga hayop," he said.
(ABS-CBN is spreading a major fake news that the ivermectin I am giving out is a veterinary drug. No doctor will prescribe a medicine that's for animals.)
"Masyado po atang nilang minamaliit ang mga tao na nagsasabing maaaring gamitin na precautionary medicine ang Ivermectin. Ito po ay human grade Ivermectin at nakapaloob po ang proseso ng pagbibigay sa regulasyon ng FDA," he added.
(It is underestimating people who are saying that ivermectin may be used as a precautionary medicine. This is human grade ivermectin, and the process of distributing it is covered by FDA regulations.)
He said Monday that only those with a prescription for ivermectin will receive a free supply.
"There should be an accompanying prescription to it. How it should be taken and the amount based on weight. For those sick with COVID, there is also a protocol," Defensor said.
According to him, the capsules will be made in the same facility making the topical ivermectin medication for humans.
"Sa compounding lab na rin. So 'pag may nagpalista, gagawa 'yung lab. Yung FDA approval is to register your brand," he said.
"Pero ivermectin is not hard to make. Even YouTube has a video on it. Yan nga point ko, Ivermectin was given as a donation for river blindness and other parasitic illnesses," he said.
"Nung nag-expire proprietary right ni Merck, wala na halos nag-produce. But it is in our drug formulary, and all they need to do is monitor the manufacturers instead of killing the initiative that might save peoples' lives. I'm saying might be from the US-FDA perspective, but based on clinical studies and reviews by experts and scientists, it can improve mortality death by 76 percent. Eh kung safe naman at baka makatulong, eh bakit nila haharangin," he added.
Defensor, who tested positive for COVID-19 last month, earlier said that he received ivermectin treatment.
He said he will file a House resolution to conduct an investigation on the use of ivermectin for humans.
"We need to hear the experts, most especially the DOH and the FDA as the regulatory agencies on this matter, and ask why the inflexibility against ivermectin. I took Ivermectin. To be honest, I do not know if it helped along with the other meds and vitamins I took. But I am negative for the the COVID-19 virus now and that is all that matters," Defensor said.
Aside from Defensor, other vocal ivermectin advocates in the House of Representatives are Deputy Speaker and Bagong Henerasyon Party-List Rep. Bernadette Herrera and 1PACMAN Rep. Enrico Pineda, who along with son actor Enzo Pineda, previously tested positive for COVID-19. The Pinedas have since recovered.
The Philippine FDA has repeatedly advised the public against the purchase and use of ivermectin veterinary products against COVID-19.
The agency also clarified that ivermectin for human use against COVID-19 is considered unregistered. It added that registered ivermectin products in the country for human use are in "topical formulations under prescription use only". - with a report from RG Cruz, ABS-CBN News