Zimbabwe to Allow Use of Parasite Drug for Covid-19 Research

Ivermectin lobby groups have welcomed the regulator’s decision to allow compassionate controlled access to the drug as a step in the right direction but have raised concern that it does not go far enough to make the drug easily accessible2020. (Photo by Luis ROBAYO / AFP)

(Bloomberg) — Zimbabwe will allow a drug usually dispensed to treat parasite infections in humans and livestock to be used in the treatment of Covid-19 patients only for research, the health regulator said Monday.

This comes after weekend media reports suggested it had given blanket approval for the widespread use of the drug with antiviral properties, known as ivermectin, for the treatment and prevention of the coronavirus.

The use of the medicine will be limited to gathering information on whether patients are “obtaining clinical benefits” from it in the management of Covid-19 cases, the Medicines Control Authority of Zimbabwe said in a statement posted on its Twitter account. “Data obtained from use of ivermectin in Zimbabwe will be critical in monitoring the safety and efficacy of ivermectin within the Zimbabwean population,” the authority said.

Similar research is being done by the University of Oxford. Initial preliminary studies from the U.K. research has shown it can reduce viral load, the amount of virus in the respiratory tract, and the length of symptoms in those with a mild infection, according to a statement from the university earlier this month.

Ivermectin has been in use for decades to treat livestock infested with parasitic worms, while in humans it’s used as a topical ointment for diseases including skin infections. It’s already been approved for use on compassionate grounds in a controlled-access program in South Africa, and health authorities have reported widespread use of the drug on the black market. The World Health Organization and the European Medicines Agency recommend that it only be used in clinical trials, as more data is needed to support its use.

Zimbabwe which is facing a third wave of infections, has given approval for the use of vaccines from China, Russia and India.

The country recorded 46,442 infections and 1,736 deaths as of June 27, according to data from the Health Ministry.