House of Representatives

House to probe use of anti-parasitic drug Ivermectin for COVID-19

Rambo Talabong
House to probe use of anti-parasitic drug Ivermectin for COVID-19

NOT PROVEN. The Department of Health and the Food and Drug Administration warn the public against the use of Ivermectin for COVID-19 treatment.

Shutterstock photo

(UPDATE 2) FDA Director General Eric Domingo says doctors and hospitals may apply for a Compassionate Special Permit to use the drug as COVID-19 treatment, but should take responsibility for the outcome

The House of Representatives is set to probe the use of anti-parasitic drug Ivermectin as a treatment against the coronavirus disease (COVID-19).

In a statement on Monday, March 29, House health panel chair and Quezon 4th District Representative Angelina Tan announced that her committee would be probing the regulation of the drug, which had not yet been approved by the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) in the Philippines and abroad for the treatment of the coronavirus infection.

The hearing is set for Tuesday, March 30, Tan said.

“We want to know what treatments are available out there so we can save as many patients as possible from this deadly disease,” Tan said in a statement.

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This comes after 1-PACMAN Representative Enrico Pineda filed House Resolution No. 1684 seeking an explanation from the FDA as to why Ivermectin is only good for animal consumption.

Compassionate special permit

In a televised briefing also on Monday, FDA Director General Eric Domingo said that doctors and hospitals who still wanted to use the drug as a COVID-19 treatment may apply for a Compassionate Special Permit (CSP) with the FDA.

“Tinanong po ni Secretary [Francisco] Duque last week, puwede ba ang CSP for Ivermectin? Sabi ko puwede kasi investigational drug naman talaga ito for COVID-19,” Domingo clarified.

(Health Secretary Francisco Duque asked me last week if Ivermectin could be used with a CSP. I said it’s possible since it really is an investigational drug for COVID-19 to begin with.)

Domingo stressed that those interested would have to go through the complete CSP application process, providing all requirements and taking full responsibility for the use of the drug.

While there are registered Ivermectin products in the country for human use, these are “in topical formulations under prescription use only,” the FDA earlier said.

“If you know someone taking Ivermectin, please check with them since it is not registered with the FDA, and we cannot guarantee the safety and quality of this medicine,” he said in a mix of English and Filipino.

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What is Ivermectin?

While anecdotes have proliferated about its effectiveness in preventing or treating mild cases of COVID-19, Ivermectin is drug used to treat parasitic infections among humans. There’s another formulation of Ivermectin, this one meant for animals, to treat heartworm disease, among other indications.

“The public is warned against taking animal drugs, as the FDA has only evaluated their safety and efficacy in the particular species for which they are labeled. Using these products in humans can cause serious harm. Animal drugs are often highly concentrated and can be highly toxic to humans,” the FDA said in a statement on March 17.

In separate briefings on March 22, health and FDA officials warned the public that the Ivermectin sold online were the formulation meant for animals. – Rappler.com

Rambo Talabong

Rambo Talabong covers the House of Representatives and local governments for Rappler. Prior to this, he covered security and crime. He was named Jaime V. Ongpin Fellow in 2019 for his reporting on President Rodrigo Duterte’s war on drugs. In 2021, he was selected as a journalism fellow by the Fellowships at Auschwitz for the Study of Professional Ethics.