By NYX MCLEAN
There is still no effective preventative drug treatment for COVID-19. Some people have been using Ivermectin as a preventative, but its effectiveness is up for debate.
This week, George Coetzee, a physician, wrote an opinion piece in Business Day advocating for the use of Ivermectin, which was shared as a comment on the Grocott’s Mail’s Facebook page. Coetzee said, “I’ve treated dozens of Covid-19 patients daily. I’ve prescribed and administered ivermectin to hundreds of people and tracked more than 50 patients who were moderately to severely ill, including several with severely compromised immune systems. I’ve seen Ivermectin make a difference in their outcomes — and the research backs this up.”
This statement goes against the grain of what has been said by other medical professionals, the World Health Organisation, and the South African Health Products Regulatory Authority (SAHPRA). At Grocott’s Mail, we decided to look into this and reached out to our local expert virologist, Prof Rosemary Dorrington.
Prof Dorrington said, “I have not seen any clinical data showing that Ivermectin has any effect on protecting people against SARS-CoV-2 infection or as an effective treatment for severe COVID.”
She then directed us to SAHPRA, which has yet to approve the use of Ivermectin to treat COVID-19. Their stance is that “Ivermectin does not have proven antiviral properties against SARS-COV-2, but it is currently used to treat parasitic conditions in animals. It is also used to treat certain conditions in humans such as precise doses for some parasitic worms, and there are topical formulations for head lice and skin conditions like rosacea.”
SAHPRA reminds us here that COVID-19 is a virus, and Ivermectin is not an antiviral treatment.
As Prof Dorrington said, “The problem is that people taking the drug think they are protected from COVID-19.” This may result in assuming that one is safe and may return to a semblance of normal life while COVID-19 continues to mutate, as we’ve seen with the latest variants to emerge, such as C.1.2., Mu, and Lambda.
“There are currently NO drugs that have been shown to be effective treatments or for COVID-19,” Dorrington reminds us.
George Coetzee does present a strong point when he writes that there are “gaps in access and acceptance” with regards to uptake of the COVID-19 vaccines and that this “pos[es]a particular threat to underserved populations and developing nations”.
The matter of access is where things get complicated with Ivermectin. If someone cannot make their way to a vaccination site, they may not be able to gain access to medical professionals who could provide them with Ivermectin. They may then be accessing Ivermectin illegally and not safely dosing following the advice of a medical professional.
SAHPRA has stated that they are “monitoring the illegal sale of so-called Ivermectin by unscrupulous individuals. The public should not buy any drug online or from unauthorised dealers.”
While Coetzee and other doctors may be administering Ivermectin and tracking their patients’ data, it is not being done at scale as has been done with the COVID-19 vaccines, which have been tested, trialled, and proven to be effective against the serious effects of COVID-19.
For instance, as we saw this past week in the Groote Schuur graphic circulated where 99% of people currently hospitalised at Groote Schuur are unvaccinated, and 100% of those in high care, ICU and on ventilators are unvaccinated.
Until Ivermectin, and any other drugs, are approved, it is best to practice caution when seeking a preventative to COVID-19.
The current and only way to reduce the risk of infection, severe illness and death is a vaccine, Prof Dorrington advised.
SAHPRA press release: https://www.sahpra.org.za/press-releases/fdas-stance-on-ivermectin-aligned-to-sahpras-position/
Business Day article: https://www.businesslive.co.za/amp/bd/opinion/2021-05-06-ivermectin-is-a-proven-treatment-for-covid-19-so-lets-use-it/