by RICHARD MUPONDE/HARRIET CHIKANDIWA
GOVERNMENT is clinically testing anti-parasite drug, Ivermectin in a bid to establish its efficacy in fighting the COVID-19 pandemic.
The second wave of COVID-19 currently affecting the country has resulted in 1 075 deaths as at yesterday.
This was revealed by acting Health secretary, Robert Mudyiradima on Monday when he appeared before a virtual committee hearing by the Parliamentary Portfolio Committee on Health and Child Care chaired by Ruth Labode.
Mudyiradima told MPs that government was in the process of clinically trying Ivermectin, which has not been banned in the country, but has been allowed for individual COVID-19 applications.
“Its widespread use is limited until clinical trials that are underway to prove its efficacy in treating COVID-19 patients are proven,” Mudyiradima said.
“The therapeutics for COVID-19 treatment such as the zumbani herbal plant, steaming and Ivermectin are still being studied for their efficacy in the treatment of COVID-19,” he added.
However, recently a prominent medical practitioner, Jackie Stone stoked controversy in the medical fraternity after prescribing Ivermectin, Doxycycline and Nano Silver as COVID-19 therapy, reportedly despite lack of clinical evidence that they were safe.
Other medical practitioners said her prescriptions were “a worrying combination of therapy for patients with SARS-CoV-2 infection and COVID-19”.
The Medical and Dental Professional Council of Zimbabwe also wrote a letter of complaint about Stone’s behaviour to the Medical and Dental Professional Council of Zimbabwe registrar Josephine Mwakutuya last week, demanding that her fitness to continue practising in the country should be reviewed.
But the Employers Confederation of Zimbabwe (Emcoz) wrote to Vice-President and Health minister Constantino Chiwenga (pictured), seeking authorisation of Ivermectin for prevention and treatment of COVID-19.
“There is increasing evidence that the anti-parasite drug Ivermectin has the potential to improve outcomes for patients affected by COVID-19. It also protects or prevents infection of both high risk individuals such as healthcare workers and those exposed to contacts of persons infected with COVID-19,” a letter dated January 18 by Emcoz vice-president Demos Mbauya read.
He further claimed that evidence showed that the veterinary vaccine could reduce the need for hospitalisation of COVID-19 patients and shortens healing time.
Mbauya said while there was veterinary and human formulations of Ivermectin, their proposal referred only to the human version of the vaccine, whereby more than three billion doses have already been administered worldwide.
“The medicine is on the World Health Organisation (WHO) list of essential medicines and it won the Nobel Prize in 2015 for its beneficial impact on humanity. The medicine has an excellent safety profile and most of the side-effects associated with the use of Ivermectin are side-effects resulting from the body eliminating the parasites that have been killed by it,” he said.
Health experts welcomed the on-going clinical trial of Ivermectin.
Medical and Dental Private Practitioners of Zimbabwe Association interim president, Johannes Marisa said: “So it has been used prophylactically as a treatment.
It will be very good for the ministry to stimulate research about the use of Ivermectin. The research can be conducted using a cohort method after you make a follow up of patients after administering.”
He said it probably could play a very significant role in reducing morbidity and mortality.
“If the drug is working then it’s wise that as a nation we get it en-masse and we administer to as many people as possible,” Marisa said.
Mpilo Central Hospital chief executive Solwayo Ngwenya said:
“The use of Ivermectin is meant for parasitic organisms for veterinary medicines. We recommend that medicines that have to be used in humans have to undergo strict checks before they are allowed to be prescribed. For example, we need to know the doses of how much Ivermectin must be administered, its side-effects and so forth,” Ngwenya said.
Zimbabwean doctors, who are at the forefront of fighting COVID-19, also wrote to the Health ministry seeking permission to use Ivermectin and Nano Silver to treat COVID-19.
Stone, who has been prescribing Ivermectin to her patients, said her current focus was to get it regularised, adding that if its use was further delayed, that would result in the country experiencing 75% unnecessary COVID-19 deaths.
“I will leave the issue of validation to the appropriate authorities. To the best of my knowledge, no actual charges were laid on me and I am free to continue to practise as normal. The allegations made by my colleagues need to be substantiated, which they have been unable to do,” Stone said.
She said the affected persons “she harmed” should be the ones to register complaints over her behaviour, adding that she would send some testimonials to prove the efficacy of the vaccine.
In a letter dated January 24 written to the Health ministry secretary Jasper Chimedza by the College of Primary Care Physicians of Zimbabwe, claimed to have successfully used Ivermectin in conjunction with Nano Silver, with the treatment registering good results.
“We feel comfortable using this drug which has been around for 40 years on the WHO essential drugs list and has an excellent safety profile. We understand that it was currently not registered in Zimbabwe, but we fill out section 75 forms for non-registered drugs all the time in the course of our practice,” part of the letter signed by 23 local doctors read.
Following the diligent efforts of physicians associated with a United States group called Frontline COVID-19 Critical Care Alliance, the US’s National Institutes of Health last week upgraded their recommendations for the “miraculous” drug Ivermectin, making it an option for use in treating COVID-19 within the United States.
The United Kingdom has also approved the use of the vaccine, a report in The Times publication said.
Last week in South Africa, a group of doctors, clinicians, pharmacists, public health specialists and scientists interested in exploring the potential of Ivermectin to prevent and treat COVID-19 lodged an application with the SA Health Products Regulatory Authority seeking permission for doctors to prescribe the drug to their patients.
According to the doctors, Ivermectin has been approved for use at provincial level in Argentina, at the State level in India and country level in Belize and Macedonia, while possible use was being explored in the US and Australia.
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