DOH: Illegal to distribute, promote Ivermectin

The Department of Health (DOH) said on Wednesday, April 7, that people who are "dispensing" anti-parasitic drug Ivermectin to treat COVID-19 are violating Republic Act (RA) No. 9711 or the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) Act of 2009.

Health Undersecretary Maria Rosario Vergeire issued the fresh warning when asked about the liability of those who are distributing and selling the the drug in the country as treatment for COVID-19.

"Specific to that law is that unregistered drugs cannot be used by the public," Vergeire said, adding that only healthcare professionals can prescribe medicines to patients.

"We would like to advise the public that if you take unregistered medicines, the government cannot assure that they are really safe for you and can really protect you for that specific disease," she added in a mix of English and Filipino.

Vergeire said that under the FDA Act of 2009, "manufacture, importation, distribution, exportation, sale, offering for sale, transfer, promotion, and advertising or sponsorship of health products without proper FDA authorization is prohibited."

Under the law, those who will violate RA 9711 may face imprisonment ranging from one year but not more than 10 years or a fine ranging from P50,000 to P5 million.

The DOH issued the latest warning amid an ongoing public debate over the use of Ivermectin to treat COVID-19 despite warnings from medical experts here and abroad.

The FDA said that there is no registered anti-parasitic drug Ivermectin for human use in the country. The only Ivermectin commercially available in the country are for veterinary use, and in the form of a topical cream for skin application.

The topical cream, however, is used "for the treatment of external parasites, such as head lice and skin conditions such as rosacea."

In a House health panel on March 30, Dr Allan Landrito – the most popular proponent of Ivermectin for COVID-19 treatment – said he made Ivermectin pills on his own before selling thousands of bottles across the country.

In the same hearing, World Health Organization (WHO) Representative to the Philippines Dr Rabindra Abeyasinghe stressed the need for "carefully controlled and planned" clinical trials of Ivermectin before it could be used to treat COVID-19 in the country.

While the DOH said that it had received the application for registration of Ivermectin, it maintained its position that it "does not recommend the use" of the anti-parasitic drug to treat COVID-19.

To date, there is still no approved treatment for COVID-19. What hospitals are using now are investigational drugs allowed under the compassionate use permit of the FDA. – Rappler.com

Bonz Magsambol

Bonz Magsambol is a multimedia reporter for Rappler, covering health, education, and social welfare. He first joined Rappler as a social media producer in 2016.

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