Results still inconclusive on ivermectin use on COVID-19 patients — doctors' groups

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Metro Manila (CNN Philippines, May 2) — Two leading doctors' groups in the country warned against the use of the anti-parasitic drug ivermectin in treating COVID-19 patients.

The Philippine Medical Association said it was standing by previous statements made by other groups that there is not enough evidence to conclude that ivermectin is an effective treatment for COVID-19.

"The PMA stands by the policy statements of the Food and Drug Administration, Department of Health and the World Health Organization that current evidence on the use of ivermectin in the treatment of COVID-19 is inconclusive," the PMA said in a statement.

The PMA also cautions the prescription of the drug outside of the approved compassionate use given to hospitals.

It said the limited permit issued by the FDA meant it "must be prescribed and used within the same hospital and the prescribing doctor must inform the patient of this compassionate use category with unproven end result." It added that ivermectin may not be prescribed by any physician outside the designated authorized hospitals.

Futhermore, the PMA said the prescription of the drug as a prophylactic medicine against the virus was "strongly not advised."

Meanwhile, the Philippine College of Physicians also opposes the use of "unregistered" drugs like ivermectin since its use has not yet been "scientifically established."

The PCP said ivermectin does not improve clinical outcomes or reduce deaths among adults with mild COVID-19 infection, based on current scientific studies.

"Let us also refrain from thinking that we are saving our countrymen from the complications of COVID-19 by giving them medicines that are not proven remedies. We may be exposing them to unwanted and possibly harmful side effects," the PCP statement read.

The doctors' group also emphasized persons using ivermectin can experience side effects like nausea, vomiting, diarrhea, stomach pain, facial or limb swelling, dizziness, seizures, confusion, sudden drop in blood pressure, and hepatitis.

A total of five hospitals have been allowed to use ivermectin on COVID-19 patients. 

In a joint statement, both the DOH and FDA stressed they do not recommend the use of ivermectin as a possible treatment for COVID-19 due to insufficient evidence. However, they said investigational drugs may be used as long as all regulatory processes are followed.

Experts, including those from the World Health Organization, have repeatedly emphasized there is not enough proof ivermectin can be used to treat or prevent COVID-19. They also warned high doses could cause brain damage in humans, or even death.