Public warned against using anti-viral drug

PETALING JAYA: Medical practitioners and members of the public have been warned against using Ivermectin to treat Covid-19 following a clinical study that confirmed its ineffectiveness against the illness.

Malaysian Medical Association (MMA) president Dr Koh Kar Chai said that any attempt to buy Ivermectin over the counter for use in treating Covid-19 would be contravening the law.

“Doctors who wish to use this drug will have to make an application for use in clinical trials,” he said yesterday.

According to Dr Koh, Ivermectin is a drug that is available in Malaysia for specific indications, which do not include being a therapeutic agent in the treatment of Covid-19.

According to a clinical study by the Institute of Clinical Research, Ivermectin does not prevent severe cases of Covid-19.

As such, the Health Ministry announced on Wednesday that Ivermectin cannot be recommended for inclusion in current Covid-19 treatment guidelines.

The ministry said anti-viral drug Ivermectin could only be used within clinical trial settings with monitoring until further supportive evidence becomes available. Medical practitioners have been cautioned not to recommend its use for Covid-19 treatment.

Dr Koh said that prior to this, proponents of Ivermectin had hopes that the anti-viral drug would be effective against Covid-19.

But the clinical study had proven that this was not the case, he said.

“So there will be no attempt by the government to get the drug to be approved for use in Covid-19 unless there is new data supporting its use,” he added.

Malaysian Public Health Physicians Association president Datuk Dr Zainal Ariffin Omar said that in general, there was no concrete evidence to prove Ivermectin’s effectiveness against Covid-19 when compared to the standard treatment.

Although it is not recommended for inclusion in the clinical guidelines of Covid-19 treatment, he said the drug should continue to be used for study purposes with proper approvals.

“It should not be used for prescription or general usage, except as described in the approved label, like for animal diseases and certain anti-parasite treatments,” he said, adding that the people should wait for another bigger study involving Ivermectin.

Dr Zainal Ariffin said more details of the clinical results and methodology in the clinical study should be made available.

“In standard evidence-based medicine, we have to go through a rigorous process of technical evaluation and peer-reviewed publication before being accepted for meta-analysis,” he said.

Ivermectin has been used for decades to treat head lice and river blindness in humans, and heartworms in animals. Various manufacturers still carry warnings of its side effects on its packaging.

Independent health policy specialist Dr Khor Swee Kheng said Ivermectin has “no effect” on Covid-19 other than causing diarrhoea.

Ivermectin, he said, is good for treating river blindness which affects 1.2 million blind people in tropical countries; filariasis which is an infectious tropical disease caused by parasitic roundworms, and hookworm infections that are common in areas with poor access to adequate water and sanitation, which affects 600 million people worldwide.

Malaysian Pharmacists Society president Amrahi Buang said the clinical study findings were consistent with that of similar trials in Brazil and Argentina.

“Finally, our studies show that Ivermectin is not recommended for treatment of Covid-19. Those who have been claiming otherwise should accept this.

“We hope people will stop using Ivermectin for Covid-19 immediately,” he said.

Amrahi noted that more in-depth studies on Ivermectin are welcome, provided that proper protocols are followed.

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