Health Ministry says no to ivermectin approval … as doctors submit petition

Andrew Kathindi

The Ministry of Health and Social Services (MOHSS) says it has no intentions to approve ivermectin for COVID-19 treatment.

A petition by over 30 doctors was sent to the MOHSS and Namibia Medicines Regulatory Council (NMRC), asking that the drug should receive an emergency approval for COVID-19 treatment in the country. Health Executive Director (ED), Ben Nangombe, and the council’s registrar of medicine, Johannes Gaeseb, both confirmed receiving the petition.

“The ministry issued a document, a public notice on the second of February about the views on ivermectin for the treatment of COVID-19 in Namibia. A that point the position indicated that there are no grounds to approve ivermectin because the studies were not conclusive at the time. Up to this point, that is the position of the ministry. We are aware of the petition. It was delivered to the Ministry,” Nangombe told Windhoek Observer.

Health Minister, Kalumbi Shangula, previously stated that, “there is always excitement when any drug is believed to be beneficial in treating COVID-19,” after the drug was approved for medical use for treating COVID-19 in South Africa and Zimbabwe.

The NMRC defines ivermectin as a broad spectrum anti-parasitic agent for both human and veterinary use.

In humans, it is used to treat a number of tropical diseases, such as onchocerciasis and strongyloidiasis as well as in treating lice and scabies. It is widely used to treat and control parasites in animals.

“That position has not changed. That position is based on scientific literature. Should there be new information that is beneficial to Namibians, we will not deny it.”

According to the medical doctors, significant data shows that ivermectin and social distancing was instrumental in managing the first wave of COVID-19 in India. “There are different views on any subject and you can find literature to support or refute anything. The doctors have put their position basing it on certain literature. The position we adopted in February also cites scientific literature,” stated Nangombe when quizzed on the evidence presented by the doctors

He however stated that the petition and its accompanying documents will be studied further. “Our scientists will look at what is being proposed and they will formulate a position, not only on the basis of what is being said but also an independent view.”

Namibia reached its peak in the third wave last week recording 717 cases in one day. COVID-19 deaths have also been on a rampant rise. Windhoek Central Hospital Senior Medical Superintendent, Dr David Uirab, recently sent out directives to staff members, which include that all non-emergency/urgent referrals from the regions be suspended with immediate effect and that only urgent operations will be performed in the hospitals’ theatres until further notice.

“We believe that any medication or drug with potential side effects should be prescribed by a qualified and registered doctor, who will monitor the therapy and provide his patient with help and support as per the current standards of good medical practice,” the petition by the doctors stated. They argued that, “granting emergency approval to use ivermectin in the management of COVID will eliminate the need for patients to self-medicate with the drug without any supervision or medical advice.”

Ivermectin can be purchased over the counter at stores like Agra.

Namibia has thus far recorded 59,092 cases of COVID-19 and 920 deaths.

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