Govt clears air on Ivermectin use for Covid-19 treatment

All medicines must be registered with the Medicine Control Authority of Zimbabwe (MCAZ) before they can be used or prescribed to patients.

This is according to Chief Coordinator for the National response to Covid-19 pandemic in the Office of the President and Cabinet, Dr Agnes Mahomva, clearing the air on the use of Ivermectin to treat covid-19 patients.

This comes after the Ministry of Health and Child Care approved the use of the anti-parasitic drug for the treatment of Covid-19.

In her weekly update on the Covid-19 pandemic, Dr Mahomva noted the previous surge in people who developed moderate or severely ill cases that required advanced medical care, fuelled social media promotion of the unethical use of a number of medicines.

“This was done without following the required safe and necessary processes of introducing, using and monitoring new medicines. Let me remind the public, medical doctors and other medical care workers that all medicines whether new old medicines, routine medicine or investigational medicine – all must be registered with the medicine control authority of Zimbabwe before they can be used or prescribed,” she said.

Dr Mahomva said at the beginning of January, MCAZ in its Circular 5 of 2021 advised medical doctors and other health care workers against the unethical unapproved use of veterinary ivermectin for Covid-19 prevention in humans.

“In a more recent communique, MCAZ provided detailed guidance indicating investigational medicine such as ivermectin, the kind to be used in humans are to be used under control and structured environments with specific instructions, monitoring to avoid that wanton and indiscriminate prescription or dispensation of such medicine,” she said.

“This approach is meant to protect the public from unethical and unsafe doses and from fake counterfeit products, including veterinary ivermectin for example. If you are going to use any drug it has to be medicine approved for human use.”

Dr Mahomva acknowledged there could be approved and registered medicine that can be used to treat other conditions, as ‘off label’ was an accepted approach both at global and local level but in specific settings and under strict monitoring for follow up.

“The key message is if you are using that medicine for a new disease it has to be monitored very carefully and you need to follow your patients very carefully. This is done to protect patients, the drug has to be registered as well. Medical doctors in both public and private are urged to use and prescribe safe medicine as outlined in the Zimbabwe guidelines for the management of covid-19,” Dr Mahomva said.

“All health care workers are also urged to continue educating their patients on the importance of using safe and registered medicines at all times, whether used in hospitals or at home.

Dr Mahomva said Zimbabwe’s national response, through the case management pillar, has put in place comprehensive and detailed  measures on management of all Covid-19 cases to be used at all levels.

“These guidelines published by the National Medicine and Drugs Therapeutic Advisory Committee reflect the consensus of local experts and take into consideration evidence based therapeutics and practical evidence. Covid-19 treatment and other management recommendations in these guidelines are frequently updated based on scientific evidence, expert opinion and additional guidance from the MCAZ.”

These guidelines are aimed at promoting quality service to all patients and other health care recipients through the rational use of medicines and other therapeutics, she added.

“The national guidelines summarise the management of patients based on the Covid- 19 disease severity and these are very similar to those regional and globally, and consist of the following two key elements -the most important is how to prevent the infection. The second one is how to institute control, supportive measures that include registered, approved and effective medicines,” Dr Mahomva said.

Dr Mahomva highlighted patients with mild covid-19 symptoms and no known high risk factors are instructed to self isolate at home and to be in regular communication with their healthcare workers for additional guidance, if symptoms become worse.

Recommended medicine for such are mostly over the counter to relieve the Covid-19 symptoms while safe home remedies such as ‘lemon tea’ are also welcome, she said.

“Early treatment of any disease can help avert progression to more serious illness especially for patients at high risk progression and severe illness and this has additional benefit of reducing burden on health care symptoms.

“If we move on to patients with moderate to severe symptoms who are admitted in hospital , receive supportive management by a team of qualified registered professionals under the guidance of qualified and registered medical doctors,” Dr Mahomva said.

The supportive management for people admitted in hospitals included supplemental oxygen and mechanical ventilation support, as well as administration of approved and registered prescription medicines.

“The national guidelines provide very clear direction on how and when to use investigational medicine such as ivermectin. In the meantime several clinical trials to assess the effectiveness of a number of new medicines on Covid-19 are ongoing globally and here in Zimbabwe.

“Government urges all healthcare workers , individuals and communities at large not to promote misleading information on Cobid-19 medication as this has the potential to cause more harm than good,” Dr Mahomva said.

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