Mon | Jun 14, 2021

Letter of the Day | Need for more clarity and understanding on Ivermectin

Published:Tuesday | May 18, 2021 | 12:06 AM

THE EDITOR, Madam:

In recent times, lobbying for the use of the drug Ivermectin both locally and overseas has increased. The drug is used free of charge as the sole tool of two global disease elimination campaigns for Onchocerciasis and Lymphatic filariasis, two of the world’s most disfiguring and devastating diseases. It is also used to treat various internal nematode infections, lice infestation, scabies, and rosacea.

In an article published in the Sunday Gleaner on March 16, the author proposed that there is a 90 per cent preventative action of Ivermectin and suggests that a prophylactic course could be a viable alternative if the drug were approved and hence a threat to the vaccine-manufacturing establishment. This statement is very unfortunate and is not factual.

The fact is that not only the World Health Organization (WHO), but the National Institutes of Health and other independent regulatory bodies have reviewed the evidence for safety and efficacy. During the pandemic, there has been an unprecedented emergency use authorisation of drugs and vaccines to help control the spread of this virus. In March of this year, the scientific evidence submitted by Frontline COVID-19 Critical Care Alliance was pre-approved for publication in a peer-reviewed journal. Still, the journal withdrew the article as the editors assessed that it contained a series of strong, unsupported claims based on studies with insufficient statistical significance, and at times, without the use of control groups. The journal further stated that it took no position on the efficacy of Ivermectin as a treatment of patients with COVID-19. However, they do take a very firm stance against unbalanced or unsupported scientific conclusions.

And that is the point. These advisers of the WHO and these regulatory bodies have no financial interests and make decisions that will be safe and proven to help.

Some countries in Latin America have permitted the drug as a treatment for COVID-19 patients. In Jamaica, the drug is registered under the Department of Agriculture for use in animals. There has been no application for registration of the drug by any distributor for its use in humans to date.

With the increased public attention to this drug, the United States Food and Drug Administration has warned that people should never take animal drugs to cause serious harm to people. They have warned that people should not take any form of Ivermectin unless prescribed to them by a licensed healthcare provider and obtained through a legitimate source. Currently, it is not approved for use for COVID-19, and there is no standard dosing guideline with proven efficacy.

All emergency-use drugs and vaccines have gone through the same rigorous process. On the basis of current evidence, these bodies cannot recommend use, nor can they state it absolutely has no place. For public safety, many of these public -health committees recommend its use in the context of clinical trials. Patients must have a balanced understanding of the facts as the lobby continues and clear evidence emerges.

DR TRACY EVANS GILBERT

Senior associate lecturer

The University of the

West Indies