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Fears illicit market will emerge for COVID 'miracle drug' Ivermectin

Authorities are clamping down on the dispensing of the drug, which is used to treat and kill parasites in animals.

A health worker shows a bottle of Ivermectin. Picture: AFP.

JOHANNESBURG/CAPE TOWN - There are growing fears an underground market may emerge for the so-called COVID-19 miracle drug Ivermectin.

Authorities are clamping down on the dispensing of the drug, which is used to treat and kill parasites in animals.

The South African Health Products Regulatory Authority (SAHPRA) on Sunday said the medication was not approved for human use in the country and any attempts to import the drug were unlawful.

A 43-year-old man was arrested last week at King Shaka International Airport for being in possession of hundreds of Ivermectin tablets.

Ivermectin has been touted by some healthcare professionals and political parties as a miracle drug for COVID-19 patients.

But SAHPRA has warned the public and doctors against distributing or consuming Ivermectin until the safety and efficacy of the drug was verified.

The regulatory body said to date there had been no positive recommendations for the use of the drug in the management of COVID-19 infections by any authority, including the Us Food and Drug Administration and the World Health Organization.

While it’s not the first medication to garner attention as a possible lifeline against COVID-19, there are concerns that people taking the unregulated product may be putting their lives at risk.

CRIMINAL CASE OPENED IN DURBAN

Meanwhile, a criminal case has been opened against a Durban pharmacist and hospital manager involved in dispensing Ivermectin.

The Ahmed Al-Kadi Hospital came under fire recently after a pharmacist dispensed the anti-parasitic drug to a patient.

A SAHPRA representative said they received a tip-off that the drug was available at the facility.

“We collected evidence and we confronted the hospital with this evidence. This happened on 7 January. It was a joint operation with the South African Police Service, eThekwini Metro and Organised Crime. We confronted the responsible pharmacist and he admitted he had dispensed the drug and this was confirmed by the hospital manager.”

Their investigation revealed the drug was dispensed to patients free of charge.

“SAHPRA will furthermore report the matter to the pharmacy council. The investigation into the doctors who prescribed it is ongoing and once this has been concluded, it will be reported to the HBCSA.”

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