The move by Australia’s legal drug authority to warn general practitioners against prescribing the drug Ivermectin as a supposed ‘Covid treatment’ has divided the grass roots medical fraternity.
Last week, the Therapeutic Goods Administration issued new restrictions on the use of ivermectin to treat Covid-19 symptoms amid fear it was being handed out by GPs to those using it as an unauthorised treatment for the virus.
The drug, which has traditionally been used to treat lice and scabies in humans, and which also is used to treat conditions in animals, gained popularity as a potential Covid cure after ex-United States President Donald Trump talked it up while in office.
The TGA had warned against using Ivermectin (pictured) to treat Covid and said there could be a number of 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 are not a cow, seriously y’all stop’
The TGA fears anti-vaxxers are behind a social media campaign pushing the drug as an alternative to vaccination
News of the direction stirred robust debate among doctors commenting under a Royal Australian College of General Practitioners article.
While some welcomed the decision, many appeared furious that they were being told what was best for their patients.
‘The contempt we are held in by our bureaucracy is palpable,’ one GP stated.
‘Once again general practice is considered the lowest common denominator of medicine, and our competence and objectivity to treat our patients appropriately is questioned,’ another doctor wrote.
Some GPs argued it was ‘common knowledge’ among doctors that vaccination alone was not the only approach to manage pandemics.
‘Being vaccinated does not make anyone a superhuman to COVID infection. If our goal is to keep Australian safe from dying, shouldn’t we give alternatives to those who for whatever reasons will rather die than take the vaccines,’ one doctor wrote.
‘India saved their nation with Ivermectin. Do we want people to die in their homes in the name of promoting vaccination? GPs should stand up for choice.’
GPs are now only able to prescribe ivermectin for TGA-approved indications, such as scabies and certain parasitic infections.
The changes mean only specific specialists , including infectious disease physicians, dermatologists, gastroenterologists and hepatologists, will be permitted to prescribe the drug for other ‘unapproved indications’ if they believe it appropriate.
Ex-United States President Donald Trump supported the use of ivermectin as a possible remedy against Covid-19
Australian GPs have expressed frustration at being told what they can and can’t prescribe to their patients
‘These changes have been introduced because of concerns with the prescribing of 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 Organisation and the US Food and Drug Administration.’
‘I am neither for or against Ivermectin at this stage,’ one GP commented.
‘WHO had given contradictory statements on Covid inflection right from the start. 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.
‘I have been approached by an aggressive family twice and I obliged once which was so hard next time that I needed to call police to get rid of that patient – frustrating indeed,’ a GP stated.
It is understood the drug’s promotion by anti-vaxxers has led to a dramatic increase in its uptake by the large sections of the community.
The drug has been used as an authorised treatment for Covid-19 in some eastern European, South American and Central American nations, and was used in India to during the outbreak of the Delta strain, but is not recommended by the WHO.
It came back into the headlines this month when prominent podcaster Joe Rogan said he used the drug and others to treat his Covid infection and rapidly recovered, with some attacking his promotion of unauthorised treatments.
A quick look on social media reveals the drug is widely promoted in anti-vaccination circles as an alternative to the jab.
‘There has been a 3-4-fold increased dispensing of ivermectin prescriptions in recent months leading to national and local shortages for those who need the medicine for scabies and parasite infections,’ GPs were warned.
A nurse administers the AstraZeneca COVID-19 vaccine at a drive through vaccination centre in Melton in August
Authorities are fighting anti-vaxxers on the ground and at the doctor’s clinic
The health watchdog has warned improper use of the drug can be associated with serious adverse effects, including severe nausea, vomiting, dizziness and neurological effects such as dizziness, seizures and coma.
Although some GPs remain skeptical of the TGA advice.
‘Ivermectin is wrongly painted as a dangerous drug and a “serious overdose reaction” of diarhoea is mentioned. This is laughable,’ one GP wrote.
‘Many patients taking all sorts of medications are experiencing diarhoea and a S/E. Should we remove all these meds from GP’s hands then?’
Former Liberal MP Craig Kelly, who in August assumed the leadership of Clive Palmer’s United Australia Party, 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 take the drug. I’m not saying the drug works, but I’m saying the doctor should be free to sit down with their patient and make a decision,’ he previously told SBS.
Last month, the equivalent to the TGA – the US FDA – put out a tweet urging people not to take ivermectin, amid a surge of calls to poison centers nationwide.
‘You are not a horse. You are not a cow. Seriously, y’all. Stop it,’ the agency wrote.