KUALA LUMPUR (July 27): A shouting match erupted in the Dewan Rakyat today, after Health Minister Datuk Seri Dr Adham Baba raised the subject of the use of Ivermectin to treat Covid-19 patients.
In his winding up speech, Adham said the ministry has given special approval for the anti-parasitic drug to be used off-label for a clinical study to determine the safety and efficacy of the drug to treat Covid-19 patients.
Off-label use refers to the use of a pharmaceutical drug for an unapproved indication or in an unapproved age group, dosage or route of administration.
“Ivermectin has been approved by the Medical Research and Ethics Committee and it is now being carried out in 18 government hospitals. A total of 500 high-risk and mildly symptomatic Covid-19 patients are involved in the trial.
“As of now, about 200 patients have participated in the study and the results of the study will be out by September,” he said in responding to a question from Mohamad Sabu (PR-Kota Raja).
This prompted R. Sivarasa (PR-Sungai Buloh) to say while he welcomes the study, the government should allow private doctors to use the drug to treat Covid-19 patients, with the patients’ consent.
Agreeing with Sivarasa, Khalid Samad (PR-Shah Alam) questioned as to why the drug was not being provided to doctors to treat Covid-19 patients, and that more people will die while waiting for the clinical trials.
“How long are you going to wait for? Are you just going to let the patients die? What are the side effects? There are no side effects. This drug has been used before,” Khalid shouted.
Other MPs joining the shouting match in support of the use of Ivermectin included Sim Tze Tzin (PR-Bayan Baru), who asked Adham to overrule the National Pharmaceutical Regulatory Agency (NPRA), as well as William Leong (PR-Selayang), Datuk Johari Abdul (PR-Sungai Petani), Datin Dr Tan Yee Kew (PR-Wangsa Maju) and P.Prabakaran (PR-Batu).
Adham then defended the government’s action for not using the drug and stressed that it cannot yet be implemented, as clinical data to prove the effectiveness of its use in treating Covid-19 patients is still unavailable.
Former Health Minister Datuk Seri Dr Dzulkefly Ahmad (PR-Kuala Selangor) had earlier today mentioned that the decision whether to use Ivermectin to treat Covid-19 patients should depend on the findings of the clinical trials.
“As a former health minister, and a medical scientist, I am guided by the principles of science to either accept or reject the use of any drugs. I know that the ministry is conducting clinical trials, so we should wait for them to release their findings,” he said.
Dr Kelvin Yii (PR-Bandar Kuching) echoed Dzulkefly’s stand, cautioning his fellow lawmakers to base their opinions on scientific evidence.
“Even if you want to lobby for anything, I do hope it is evidence-based. Anyhow, either way, it should not replace vaccines or any fundamental public health measures. The fundamental tenet of medicine, prevention is better than cure,’’ he tweeted after the Parliament session ended.
In a statement in May, Health director-general Tan Sri Dr Noor Hisham Abdullah said the ministry advises against the usage of Ivermectin for the purpose of treating and preventing Covid-19, as there is no clinical data to prove its effectiveness against the coronavirus.
He said no products with Ivermectin have been registered with the Drug Control Authority for human consumption so far. Ivermectin is an anti-parasitic drug mostly used in veterinary medicine, especially in treating worm infestations.
He pointed out that the US Food and Drug Administration has yet to approve the use of Ivermectin to treat or prevent Covid-19.
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