Ivermectin only for animal use

Malaysia has recorded close to 5,000 COVID-19 deaths so far. We have been hearing statements from the health ministry and doctors that more and more patients are developing serious symptoms of the disease as days go by.

Amid the ongoing battle against the pandemic, some doctors and netizens are now suggesting that the health ministry consider using Ivermectin, an antiparasitic drug, to treat high-risk cases. Following the incident, an infectious disease specialist has come forward to clarify that Ivermectin is only approved for animal use in Malaysia and people should not get it themselves from non-certified sources.

Ivermectin in COVID-19 treatment

Ivermectin box in hands
Image credit: BBC

Ivermectin is an antiparasitic drug approved by the US Food and Drug Administration (FDA), and it is typically used in treating infections such as scabies, strongyloidiasis or roundworm infection, river blindness and many more.

As reported by Free Malaysia Today on 16th June 2021, the antiparasitic drug has garnered “international attention” due to “several case studies and clinical trials that showed promising results in treating COVID-19”.

However, both the World Health Organization (WHO) and the FDA only recommend the drug to be used within clinical trials. On 31st March 2021, WHO released a statement saying that the current data “on the use of Ivermectin to treat COVID-19 is inconclusive”.

It added that “until more data is available”, the drug shall “only be used within clinical trials”.

Similarly, the FDA has also updated its website saying it “has not approved Ivermectin for use in treating or preventing COVID-19 in humans.”

Not certified for human use in Malaysia

Doctor video

On 14th June 2021, the Malaysian health ministry uploaded a video of Dr Steven Lim Chee Loon, an infectious disease specialist at Hospital Raja Permaisuri Bainun in Ipoh, clarifying that as of now, in Malaysia, Ivermectin is only approved for animal use. He also added that the use of the drug for animals and humans is not similar.

“What we are worried now is that with all this viral news about the use of Ivermectin for COVID-19, people may proceed to buy this drug from non-certified sources directly or accidentally consume one that is meant for treating animals,” he said, cautioning people that this could lead to unwanted side effects.

A statement by Dr Noor Hisham Abdullah, Malaysia’s Health Director-General on 5th June 2021 clarified that the health ministry and the Institute for Clinical Research (ICR) have started a clinical trial involving Ivermectin for high-risk COVID-19 patients.

Known as the Ivermectin Treatment Efficacy in Covid-19 High Risk Patients or I-TECH Study, the trial will include some “500 subjects from high-risk groups aged 50 and above admitted to MOH hospitals with mild/moderate COVID-19 symptoms (Stage 2-3)” to find out the effectiveness of Ivermectin in preventing COVID-19 from deteriorating and leading to fatal outcomes.

Don’t buy Ivermectin to treat COVID-19

We know many of us are worried about COVID-19 and may be looking for ways to prevent the disease. While prevention is better than cure, people should always follow the guidelines and recommendations set by the Ministry of Health, Malaysia.

It is not advisable to look for Ivermectin that is intended for animal use or attempt to source it from non-certified sources. Do keep yourself up to date with the latest information from the health ministry on whether or not this drug can be used.

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Cover image adapted from: Noor Hisham Abdullah and KEMENTERIAN KESIHATAN MALAYSIA

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