Ivermectin, which has some reports of high effectiveness in limited studies, has received approval from the SA government to be used under strict control for compassionate use.
Dr Boitumelo Semete-Makokotlela, head of the South African Health Products Regulatory Authority (SAHPRA), said that practitioners applying to use the drug will be considered case-by-case.
Ivermectin has a long history of use as an antiparasitic treatment in animals, while in humans it’s used as an anthelmintic drug that is usually indicated for filarial and resistant scabies infections. While the World Health Organization has suggested the drug has encouraging effects on coronavirus, although it hasn’t been properly evaluated yet.
“We absolutely share everyone’s desperation at this point,” said Helen Rees, SAHPRA chairwoman. “So the question about ivermectin and self-medication goes back to what everyone in the scientific community is saying. And that is, we don’t know if it works and we don’t know if it doesn’t work. That’s why we need to get data.”
Physicians in Zimbabwe are reportedly treating COVID with ivermectin in combination with silver nanoparticles – normally used as an algaecide – to great success.
Rees, however, warned South Africans that people self-medicating “need to be very careful because we don’t have any information about the quality of what you’re taking.”
Dr Semete-Makokotlela said that clear guidelines for the rollout would be given tomorrow. She added that SAHPRA granted the health department permission to distribute the Oxford/AstraZeneca COVID vaccine, the first one for SA. It is also currently reviewing applications from Johnson & Johnson and Pfizer, but has yet to receive an application from Moderna, she said.