MANILA - AnaKalusugan Rep. Mike Defensor said Wednesday a member of the Philippine National Police's Criminal Investigation and Detection Group (PNP-CIDG) approached and questioned his political leader for distributing the anti-parasitic drug ivermectin.
"I’d just like to clarify na yung pinuntahan nila, yung isa naming kasamahan sa Malayang QC group, na kami yung naga-advocate ng distribution ng ivermectin. At pinuntahan nga s'ya ng isang taga CIDG," said the lawmaker who had offered to give out ivermectin to those who need it despite repeated warnings earlier by the Food and Drug Administration (FDA).
The incident happened in Quezon City's 4th District, he said. But he refused to identify his political leader and the policeman.
He also clarified he is not formally connected to the person approached by the police.
"Pinuntahan nga itong tao and tinatanong sa kanya kung kanino siya nagbigay ng ivermectin, number one. Number two, tinatanong sa kanya kung may mga adverse incident about the ivermectin distribution. And then nung huli, pinapapirma siya ng isang statement which he declined to do," Defensor said.
"Hindi naman siya distribution center talaga. Pero siya yung parang distribution. Sila yung nagbibigay pa dun sa barangay, parang ganun yung situation.He is a former barangay captain and kasama siya dun sa Malayang QC group na nagtutulak nitong ivermectin initiative."
"They’re helping out. They’re giving out, kasi di ba dahil dito sa pandemic, hindi madali yung distribtion eh. So, usually, pwede namin ibigay sa isang tao. At yung tao na yun, siya naman ang magbibigay sa iba para sila naman yung magbigay sa barangay. So parang ganyan yung naging cooperation namin na tulong tulong kami."
The Department of Science and Technology (DOST) said a clinical trial to determine the effectiveness of ivermectin against COVID-19 will be conducted in the country.
The FDA has granted two hospitals a special permit to use ivermectin for their COVID-19 patients, acknowledging there was some "pressure" to approve it.
The drug regulator explained the compassionate special permit allows experimental or unregistered drugs for limited off-label use, but acquiring one does not mean the medication is proven to be effective since that requires a clinical trial.
Registered ivermectin products in the Philippines are for veterinary use only and are only to treat internal and external parasites, as well as prevention of heartworm disease, the health department earlier said.
Unauthorized use of veterinary drugs could lead to brain damage and death, infectious disease expert Dr. Edsel Maurice Salvana had noted.
The World Health Organization (WHO) has recommended against using ivermectin on patients with COVID-19, except for clinical trials, because of a lack of data demonstrating its benefits.
Defensor said they will discuss what actions to take next after the police visit.
"I’m ready to face any legal action by the police or the FDA. To be clear about it, I know na darating itong panahon na ito and iipitin nila. And I’ve been ready for that. And because of that, talagang sinundan ko pa rin lahat nung legal procedures nila. Pero beside, despite of it, talagang ginigipit nila yung mga tao," he said.
Nonetheless, he said, "I will doubly pursue my efforts to distribute ivermectin. Talagang nahihirapan lang kami because of supply."
Defensor earlier 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.
Ivermectin manufacturer Merck had said there is no scientific basis showing that the anti-parasite drug is effective against COVID-19.