The Namibian Medicines Regulatory Council (NMRC) has directed pharmacists and doctors countrywide to stop producing, dispensing or prescribing Ivermectin as treatment for Covid-19.
Ivermectin is an active medical ingredient for the treatment of parasite infestations in animals but is used in humans in some countries. It is used in Namibia strictly as a veterinary medicine to prevent and treat parasitic worms in animals.
In Namibia, some doctors, patients and pharmacists are using Ivermectin, saying they have witnessed results.
The World Health Organisation convened a guideline development group comprising an international panel of experts, which includes clinical care experts in multiple specialties, to review the effectiveness of Ivermectin through clinical research. The outcome remains inconclusive.
Several people, including health professionals, believe the worldwide result was evidence enough as several people testified to its effectiveness on social media.
This belief was further fuelled by skepticism around the Covid-19 vaccine, as some individuals turned to Ivemectin as an alternative.
FROM ANIMAL TO HUMAN USE
Ivermectin is sold as a veterinary product in Namibia and not commercially available for human consumption.
However, according to a salesperson at agricultural retail giant Agra that stocks the drug, customers have been buying it recently to treat Covid-19.
"It is just for animals that we sell it, but people do come here and say it is for Covid," the salesperson said.
The Namibian confirmed with some doctors and pharmacists, on condition of anonymity, that they had purchased the drug in bulk and then dispensed and prescribed it in doses suitable for humans.
According to the Agra salesperson, sometime ago they ran out of Ivermectin stock because the product was not available from South Africa for a while, and not necessarily because it was being bought to treat Covid.
The salesperson said it is during this time of the pandemic that some pharmacies began compounding Ivermectin medication for human consumption, and then distributed it to doctors as off-label prescriptions for Covid-19.
A local doctor confirmed this.
"There was a lot of information coming out on Ivermectin, and I recommended it to my patients. Even my entire staff and family takes it for strengthening the [immune] system. The results have been very good," the doctor said.
The regulatory council's registrar of medicine, Johannes Gaeseb, told The Namibian this week that the decision to prohibit the use of Ivermectin for the treatment of the coronavirus is not because it was illegal but for safety reasons.
"It is used for treating parasites in animals, not for people - not in Namibia. We, therefore, maintain that the clinical information of the use of Ivermectin on people for Covid-19 is very limited," said Gaeseb.
"We need more scientific results that qualify if fitness for humans, especially for the treatment of Covid. If we get proper official research results that support its benefits to Covid patients, we could consider," he said."
He said while in South Africa there was recently a court decision to permit pharmacies and doctors to compound and prescribe medicine that contained Ivermectin as an active ingredient, it was because Ivermectin was also available for human use to treat parasites.
Some medical professionals have sought legal opinions on the directive of the NMRC and whether Namibia could, like South Africa, allow people the choice of using an alternative treatment for Covid-19.