TURNING POINT: The Case of Ivermectin

NAAWAN, Misamis Oriental (MindaNews / 20 April) – In this pandemic crisis, when health care facilities are already getting overwhelmed by unstoppable surge of COVID-19 patients, when mortuaries and crematories are already in capacity and have already begun to refuse in receiving mounting fatalities, the government need to think hard and fast for solutions.

In addressing the disease, health authorities should be open to options and other avenues to relieve the sick. It should consider that what works is good. What others have found to work should be tried, anecdotal or no hard science the evidence may be. It could be the only good in a life-and-death situation.

Of course, making risk-benefit analysis is of great help in decision-making. If the benefit is greater than the risk, by all means, go.

The debate ought now to stop. Let those affected decide for themselves. Their decision should, however, be informed. The patients or their responsible kin should know the possibilities of the treatment or any medical intervention for the purpose.

Why should a veterinary drug to rid animals of internal and external parasites be used in humans? The question is the prevailing emotional argument against the use of ivermectin in the treatment of COVID-19 patients.

Why not? Are not humans animals, too? They are; except that humans claim they are of the highest order, but the worst undeniably of the kind.

Seriously, although ivermectin was originally introduced as a veterinary drug in the1970s for internal and external parasites, it was also found very effective in the extermination of parasites in humans and in the treatment of scabies. Ivermectin soon after made historic impacts in human health when it was discovered to effectively control Onchocerciasis (river blindness) and Lymphatic filariasis in the ’80s, diseases which blighted the lives of billions of the poor and disadvantaged throughout the tropics, the reason why its discoverers were awarded the Nobel Prize in Medicine in 2015 and the reason for its inclusion on the WHO’s “List of Essential Medicines.”

In the past decade, ivermectin has been increasingly known in the scientific and medical community as a “wonder drug” on a par with penicillin and aspirin.

Since 2012, a growing number of cellular studies have demonstrated that ivermectin has anti-viral properties against an increasing number of RNA viruses, including influenza, Zika, HIV, Dengue, and most importantly, SARS-CoV-2. Biomedicine Discovery Institute at Monash University in Australia found that ivermectin is capable of killing the novel coronavirus in a laboratory setting within 48 hours. The study was published in Antiviral Research, a medical journal.

Since then, the COVID-19 pandemic the wonder drug has come to the fore once again proving itself as a vital addition to the medical toolbox in defeating the virus.

In October 2020, the Front Line COVID-19 Critical Care Alliance (FLCCC) organized by medical professionals to continuously review the rapidly emerging basic science, translational, and clinical data to develop a treatment protocol for COVID-19, developed a preventive and early outpatient combination treatment protocol for COVID-19 called I-MASK+. It’s centered around ivermectin, upon discovering that the anti-parasitic drug, has highly potent anti-viral and anti-inflammatory properties against COVID-19.

From there, despite non-endorsement and approval as a drug for COVID-19 by WHO and health authorities of the US, where FLCCC is based, the use of ivermectin for the coronavirus pandemic has spread wide particularly in South America and Africa.

The FLCCC believes that ivermectin may yet join the vaccine as the panacea to the pandemic. While the vaccine is relatively costly and is, unfortunately, in short supply, Ivermectin, on the hand, comes in rather very cheap and is easily available because its production has long been established.

The larger medical community’s opposition against ivermectin is primarily the insufficient science-based evidence on its efficacy against the virus. In the US, the authorities have softened their hard stand against and by recently allowing its use in clinical trials. Clinical trials are now underway worldwide.

According to the Mayo Clinic, the most common side effects in the human use of ivermectin, as evinced in the treatment for river blindness, are: fever, itching or skin rash, joint or muscle pain, painful and tender glands in neck, armpits, or groin and rapid heartbeat, all of which are hardly different from that of COVID-19 vaccines.

Meanwhile, none of the COVID-19 vaccines now in use have passed the mandatory fourth clinical trial to warrant its commercial distribution and use. It is being dispensed on emergency use authorization (EUA) only and the responsibility on any issue arising from its use rests on the government that grants the authority.

Ivermectin’s status then is not so far behind from the vaccines’.

To save lives, why can’t ivermectin be given the same accommodation given to the vaccines?

(MindaViews is the opinion section of MindaNews. William R. Adan, Ph.D., is retired professor and former chancellor of Mindanao State University at Naawan, Misamis Oriental, Philippines.)

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