An over-the-counter horse dewormer that is being portrayed on farmers’ groups as a miracle cure for covid-19 is not only prohibited for use in humans, but also potentially life-threatening.
The South African Health Product Regulatory Authority (SAHPRA) has issued a stern warning to the agricultural sector to disregard fake news about Ivermectin, an animal medication used to treat parasite infestations. In the last few days, many farmers have reportedly started bulk-buying the “horse paste” to ward off and even treat covid-19.
SAHPRA says in terms of safety and efficacy, there is no evidence to support the use of Ivermectin as a cure for the coronavirus. “We do not have any clinical trial evidence to justify its use. At present, there is no confirmatory clinical evidence available for the use of Ivermectin in the management of covid-19 infections.”
‘Miracle drug’ can cause death
Some farmers’ social media groups falsely claim that certain South African farmers have been cured from covid-19 after taking Ivermectin. This could be deadly, says SAHPRA. “The use of such a drug could potentially lead to harmful effects or even death.”
Dr Peter Oberem, managing director of Afrivet, says, “Our registered stock remedies (of Ivermectin) have been tested for safety in animals, not humans. It is a criminal act to recommend the use in humans of animal health products that are not registered as medicines for use in or on humans for any purpose.”
Health authorities have issued similar warnings in other parts of the world, including the US where animal feed stores have noticed a worrying trend where farmers were buying Ivermectin for the same reason.
Mackenna LaFond, a clerk at Sierra Feed in Reno, Nevada tells KOLO-TV 8 News, a television news network, that customers are taking multiple tubes home with them and often ask her how they should be taking it. “I tell them every time it is just for animals even though I know they are going to take it for themselves.”
LaFond says a single tube of Ivermectin helps treat a horse of up to 680 kilogram over three to four months. “Imagine what it can do to a person weighing 150 pounds (68kg) who takes it on a regular basis.”
The Berkshire Eagle, a daily newspaper, reports that Australian researchers published the findings of an earlier study that found that Ivermectin inhibited the replication of SARS-CoV-2 in a laboratory setting, which is not the same as testing the drug on humans or animals.
After the study, the US Food and Drug Administration released a letter warning consumers not to self-medicate with Ivermectin intended for animals.
Meanwhile SAHRA also warns that any attempt to import the drug into South Africa will be perceived as being unlawful. “Any attempt… will be dealt with by SAHPRA’s regulatory compliance unit in conjunction with law enforcement agencies. If you are aware of such transgressions, contact Deon Poovan, senior manager: inspectorate and regulatory compliance on firstname.lastname@example.org.”