Sat | May 15, 2021

Ivermectin needs more study says Tufton

Published:Sunday | February 28, 2021 | 5:49 PM
Minister of Health, Dr Christopher Tufton making an address during a media briefing, now happening, to update the country on the nation's response to the COVID-19 upsurge and other matters.

Minister of Health and Wellness, Dr Christopher Tufton, has said Jamaica will not be approving the drug Ivermectin for the treatment of COVID-19 at this time. He says the use of the drug in the treatment of the disease needs further study.

The drug, used to treat parasitic infections in animals and humans, was being promoted by the Medical Association of Jamaica (MAJ) and other bodies for use in the treatment of persons with COVID-19.  The MAJ has been arguing that a significant body of peer-reviewed evidence has emerged pointing to the fact that the drug can decrease case counts and mortality rates when used as a prophylactic agent, and when used in the treatment of all stages of COVID-19.

However, Tufton said the government will not issue a policy directive for use of the drug in the treatment of the deadly respiratory illness until more studies are done affirming the drug's efficacy in treating COVID-19. 

"The Ministry of Health and Wellness has a responsibility to ensure that recommendations given from a policy level regarding medicines and therapeutics... that [only] medicines with proven safety, effectiveness and efficacy are available to the population," he said. 

"The use of unproven drugs can lead to a waste of resources, harmful effects and can also reduce the availability of the drug for its recommended use," he emphasised. 

Tufton noted that the use of Invermectin has been widely reviewed by the National Institute of Health in the United States and it has concluded that there is not enough evidence to recommend the drug for COVID-19 treatment. He noted that the World Health Organization and the Pan American Health Organisation have also indicated that more clinical studies are needed. 

"The drug use, as labelled as an anti-parasitic and not for COVID-19, has been found to be safe a drug, but it is prescribed as an anti-parasitic, not for COVID-19," Tufton stressed. 

He said he recognises that some doctors may be prescribing the drug for their private patients, but this has to be done in the context of a clinical study and, therefore, discussion and agreement must take place between doctor and patient before proceeding. 

Where doctors choose to prescribe Ivermectin for patients, he urged that they must first make it clear that its safety during pregnancy and in children has not been established and, second, that the use of the drug has not been cleared in the treatment of COVID-19.     

"Ivermectin is currently recommended by the manufacturer for human and animal use as an anti-parasitic medication. There has been previously no demand for human use in Jamaica and no human use is currently registered in the country. Animal preparations are not to be used in humans," he insisted. 

He added that there has been no application for the drug by any distributor for its labelled use, but he said registration would be expedited once it receives an application. 

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