Jolted into action by the tragic loss of four ministers, President Emmerson Mnangagwa's administration has approved mass importation of anti-parasitic drug Ivermectin to battle Covid-19.
Covid-19 cases and deaths ballooned exponentially since the beginning of the year. The country has so far recorded over 32 300 positive cases and 23 687 recoveries.
A total of 300 new cases and 23 deaths were recorded on Wednesday. Zimbabwe has lost 1 122 people to the virulent contagion to date.
In a letter to the Medicines Control Authority of Zimbabwe acting director Robert Rukwata, Health and Child Care acting secretary Robert Mudyiradima said while the government had a critical obligation to protect patients, it could not "deny them effective treatment regimes" in these difficult times of Covid-19.
"It is in this regard that authority is granted for you to proceed under Section 75 of the Medicines and Allied Substances Control Act to allow importation and use of these medicines under supervision and guidance you outlined," Mudyiradima wrote.
"Ivermectin can be evaluated for both treatment and prophylaxis (prevention)."
Covid-19 has claimed four government ministers, Perrance Shiri, Ellen Gwaradzimba, Rtd Lt-General Sibusiso Moyo and Joel Biggie Matiza while Rtd Brigadier-General Collen Moyo; former ZPCS Commissioner-General Rtd Major-General Paradzayi Zimondi; and other Zanu PF bigwigs also succumbed to the dreaded virus.
Moyo, Matiza and Zimondi were interred at the national heroes' acre on Wednesday at an unprecedented triple burial presided over by the Acting President Constantino Chiwenga, who is also Health and Child Care minister.
Recently, a prominent medical practitioner, Jackie Stone stirred controversy in the medical fraternity after prescribing Ivermectin, Doxycycline and Nano Silver as Covid-19 therapy, reportedly despite lack of clinical evidence for safe use.
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 a review of her fitness to continue practicing.
Stone, who has been prescribing Ivermectin to her patients, said her current focus was to get it regularised. She said if the use of the drug was delayed further, it would cause 75% unnecessary Covid-19 deaths.
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.
In a letter dated January 24, 2021, to the Health ministry secretary Jasper Chimedza by the College of Primary Care Physicians of Zimbabwe, the physicians claimed to have successfully used Ivermectin together with Nano Silver, with 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.
One of the medical professors who complained about Stone's prescriptions, Rashida Ferrand yesterday said testing of Ivermectin under government regulation was not a problem.
"Testing with regulation is appropriate," Ferrand said
The Employers' Confederation of Zimbabwe (Emcoz) also wrote to Chiwenga 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," reads a letter dated January 18, 2021, by Emcoz vice-president Demos Mbauya.
He further claimed that evidence showed that the veterinary vaccine could reduce the need for hospitalisation of Covid-19 patients and shorten healing time.
Mbauya said while there were veterinary and human formulations of Ivermectin, their proposal referred only to the human version of the vaccine. Over 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.
Following diligent efforts of physicians associated with a United States group - Frontline Covid-19 Critical Care Alliance, the US' National Institute of Health last week recommended the "miraculous" drug Ivermectin, making it an option in treating Covid-19.
The United Kingdom has also approved the use of the drug, according to The Times.
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 patients.
According to the doctors, Ivermectin has been approved for use at provincial level in Argentina, at State level in India and country level in Belize and Macedonia, while possible use was being explored in the US and Australia.