Doctor warns against using ivermectin for COVID-19, says clinical trials needed to check for side effects

Kristine Sabillo, ABS-CBN News

Posted at Apr 06 2021 08:30 PM | Updated as of Apr 07 2021 04:15 AM

Video courtesy of Department of Health

MANILA — An infectious diseases specialist on Tuesday said Filipinos should not use Ivermectin to treat or prevent COVID-19, especially if they do not have a doctor monitoring them.

“We don’t recommend these drugs for patients with COVID. So merong mga detrimental effects 'yan, side effects na di pa natin alam that will also damage your liver or kidneys. The fact that it has not yet been approved by the Philippine FDA (Food and Drug Administration) and other clinical societies like PSMID (Philippine Society for Microbiology and Infectious Diseases), siguro we have to be careful in taking these drugs,” said Dr. Rontgene Solante, San Lazaro Hospital’s adult infectious diseases division chief, during a Department of Health briefing.

(We don’t recommend these drugs for patients with COVID. There are detrimental effects, side effects that we are not sure if it will damage your liver or kidneys. The fact that it has not yet been approved by the Philippine FDA and other clinical societies like PSMID, maybe we have to be careful in taking these drugs.)

Ivermectin has been making headlines in the Philippines lately as some groups are advocating its use for COVID-19. However, the World Health Organization, international medical bodies, and even the manufacturer of the drug have stated that there is no evidence showing that the anti-parasite drug for animals has a beneficial effect on COVID-19 patients. 

A WHO official also pointed out that majority of COVID patients eventually recover without any treatment and it’s not right to attribute such recovery to drugs that have not been scientifically studied.

According to the Department of Health, Ivermectin products registered in the country are for veterinary use and are only allowed for the treatment of internal and external parasites as well as prevention of heartworm disease in animals.

After several warnings from the government, Malacañang on Monday said the proponents of Ivermectin for COVID-19 patients finally applied for a compassionate use permit with the FDA. A compassionate special permit allows experimental or unregistered drugs for limited off-label use. However, it acquiring such a permit does not mean that the drug is proven to be effective since that requires a clinical trial.

Solante said that if Ivermectin is allowed to be used for COVID-19 patients, it must be upon the advise of a doctor.

“You have to be monitored,” he said. “Wag nating i-alinlangan ang buhay natin just because of a drug na we believe merong effect na until now hindi pa natin nakikita sa clinical trials.”

(You have to be monitored…Let’s not risk our life just because of a drug that we think might be effective despite not showing results in clinical trials.)

“Wala pa tayong nakikitang magandang data na yung nabigyan ng Ivermectin napababa ang risk na ma-admit sya o hindi nagka-COVID,” Solante stressed.

(We haven’t seen good data showing that those who received Ivermectin had lower risk of being admitted or did not get COVID at all.)

He said those pushing for the approval of Ivermectin should hold clinical trials so there could be data evaluated. 

Solante said those who take Ivermectin might also have a false sense of safety to the point that they no longer strictly follow health protocols.

With Ivermectin still not approved even for compassionate use on COVID-19 patients, Solante said doctors illegally administering it specifically for COVID-19 might face investigation.

“Maraming gray area in that aspect. If that causes more harm sa pasyente then that’s a possible area where the healthcare worker should also be investigated,” he said.

The debate on Ivermectin has heightened as government is being criticized for the slow rollout of vaccines — reaching only 800,000 people in 1 month — and COVID cases and deaths have reached record-high numbers.