The Australian Legal Drugs Authority’s move to warn GPs against prescribing the drug Ivermectin as a supposed ‘Covid treatment’ has divided the medical fraternity at the grassroots.
Last week, the Therapeutic Goods Administration issued new restrictions on the use of ivermectin to treat Covid-19 symptoms, fearing it would be handed out by GPs to those using it as an illicit treatment for the virus.
The drug, traditionally used to treat lice and scabies in humans, and also used to treat ailments in animals, became popular as a possible Covid cure after former United States President Donald Trump announced said it during his tenure.
The TGA had warned against using Ivermectin (pictured) to treat Covid and said there could be some dangerous side effects
Australia’s TGA and the United States’ FDA have both warned against using ivermectin to treat Covid, with the FDA saying: ‘You’re not a cow, seriously, stop it all’
The TGA fears anti-vaxxers are behind a social media campaign to promote the drug as an alternative to vaccination
News of the direction sparked a heated debate among doctors commenting under a Royal Australian College of General Practitioners article.
While some welcomed the decision, many seemed outraged that they were being told what was best for their patients.
‘The contempt that our bureaucracy shows us is palpable’, says a GP.
“Once again, general practice is considered the lowest common denominator of medicine, and our ability and objectivity to treat our patients appropriately is being questioned,” wrote another doctor.
Some GPs argued that it was “common knowledge” among doctors that vaccination alone was not the only way to manage pandemics.
Being vaccinated does not make anyone a superhuman for COVID infection. If our goal is not to let Australians die, then we shouldn’t give alternatives to those who, for whatever reason, would rather die than take the vaccines,” a doctor wrote.
India saved their country with ivermectin. Do we want people to die at home in the name of promoting vaccination? GPs must stand up for choice.’
GPs can now only prescribe ivermectin for TGA-approved indications, such as scabies and certain parasitic infections.
The changes mean that only specific specialists, including infectious disease physicians, dermatologists, gastroenterologists and hepatologists, will be allowed to prescribe the drug for other “unapproved indications” as they see fit.
Former United States President Donald Trump supported the use of ivermectin as a potential drug against Covid-19
Australian GPs have expressed frustration at being told what they can and cannot prescribe for their patients
“These changes were introduced because of concerns about prescribing oral ivermectin for the claimed prevention or treatment of COVID-19,” the TGA told doctors.
“Ivermectin is not approved for use in COVID-19 in Australia or in other developed countries, and its use by the general public for COVID-19 is currently strongly discouraged by the National COVID Clinical Evidence Taskforce, the World Health Organization and the US Food and Drug Administration.’
‘I am not for or against ivermectin at the moment,’ noted a GP.
“The WHO had made conflicting statements about the inflection of Covid from the outset. For example, no human-to-human transmission.’
Some GPs claimed they had been bullied by anti-vaxxers desperate for access to the drug to treat Covid.
“Twice I was approached by an aggressive family and once I had to admit, which the next time was so difficult that I had to call the police to get rid of that patient – frustrating indeed,” said a GP.
Clearly, the promotion of the drug by anti-vaxxers has led to a dramatic increase in its use by large segments of the community.
The drug has been used as an approved treatment for Covid-19 in some Eastern European, South American and Central American countries, and was used in India during the Delta strain outbreak, but is not recommended by the WHO.
It made headlines this month when prominent podcaster Joe Rogan said he was using the drug and others to treat his Covid infection and made a quick recovery, with some attacking his promotion of unauthorized treatments.
A quick look at social media reveals that the drug is widely promoted in anti-vaccine circles as an alternative to the jab.
“There has been a 3-4 times higher issuance of ivermectin prescriptions in recent months, leading to national and local shortages for those who need the drug for scabies and parasitic infections,” GPs warned.
A nurse administers the AstraZeneca COVID-19 vaccine during a drive through the vaccination center in Melton in August
Authorities fight anti-vaxxers on the ground and in the doctor’s clinic
The health watchdog has warned that inappropriate use of the drug can be associated with serious side effects, including severe nausea, vomiting, dizziness and neurological effects such as lightheadedness, seizures and coma.
Although some general practitioners remain skeptical about the TGA advice.
‘Ivermectin is wrongly portrayed as a dangerous drug and there is talk of a ‘severe overdose reaction’ of diarrhoea. This is laughable,” a doctor wrote.
‘Many patients who use all kinds of medicines suffer from diarrhea and an S/E. Do we have to get all those medicines out of the hands of the GP?’
Former Liberal MP Craig Kelly, who assumed leadership of Clive Palmer’s United Australia Party in August, has repeatedly said drugs such as ivermectin and the malaria drug hydroxychloroquine – another unproven treatment – should be used to treat Covid.
“I’m not saying you should take the medicine. I’m not saying that the drug works, but I’m saying that the doctor should have the freedom to sit down with his patient and make a decision,” he told SBS earlier.
Last month, the equivalent of the TGA – the US FDA – posted a tweet urging people not to take ivermectin, amid a wave of calls to poison centers across the country.
‘You’re not a horse. You are not a cow. Seriously, everyone. Stop it,” the agency wrote.