Doctors Slam Sungai Buloh MP For Pushing Ivermectin As COVID-19 Drug In Parliament

The current evidence on the use of Ivermectin to treat COVID-19 patients is still inconclusive.

Cover image via Bernama/New Straits Times & Khairull Azry Bidin/New Straits Times

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Healthcare professionals on Twitter are condemning members of Parliament (MPs) for pushing the use of common antiparasitic drug, Ivermectin, in the treatment of COVID-19 during the parliament sitting on Tuesday, 27 July

According to New Straits Times, the topic was brought up by Sungai Buloh MP, Sivarasa Rasiah, as Health Minister Datuk Seri Dr Adham Baba was wrapping up the debate on public health measures to address the pandemic.

Sivarasa was seeking clarification on the Ministry of Health's (MOH) stand on the issue, to which Dr Adham Baba stressed for policymakers to wait for the outcome of the national clinical trial currently being run in public hospitals to test the drug's efficacy.

The minister said the findings will be available by September.

However, Sivarasa pressed that doctors want permission now for off-label use of the drug and claimed that it can stop people from dying.

Bayan Baru MP Sim Tze Tzin also called on the ministry to use its power to overrule the National Pharmaceutical Regulatory Agency's (NPRA) awaited approval and give the drug Emergency Use Authorisation (EUA).

A few other opposition MPs were seen chiming in to support emergency approval of the drug.

The drug lobby drew quick backlash on social media, with many experts accusing the MPs of politicising the issue

Healthcare professionals also emphasised the move was irresponsible due to the current lack of evidence of using the drug to treat the coronavirus.

Dr Ghows Azzam — Science Advisor to the Ministry of Science, Technology, and Innovation (MOSTI) and associate professor with Universiti Sains Malaysia's School of Biological Sciences — said the push for the use of Ivermectin in parliament was "really bad".

"Sadly science and data are being ignored. Clinical trial data now is showing that there is no significant benefit for COVID-19 cases. Stop politicising Ivermectin or vaccines," he urged.

MOH doctor and founder of Twitter movement #MedTweetMY — a hashtag used to debunk health misconceptions on social media — Dr Khairul Hafidz also called on lawmakers to simply wait for data from the clinical trials.

"Disappointed seeing leaders from Pakatan Harapan (PH) who are pushing for the use of Ivermectin. We in the medical field have already explained this issue on social media time and again, but our efforts can be crushed by the support shown by the PH leaders in parliament today," he said.

Meanwhile, Dr Rafidah Abdullah, consultant in Internal Medicine and Nephrology at Hospital Putrajaya also asked for the politicians to stop bringing up the issue until it has been proven effective by the national regulatory body.

"Dear politicians, don't upset real frontliners. Do not tell us how to manage patients clinically. STAY OUT," she said.

"We won't use Ivermectin as standard therapy until there is clear evidence of clinical benefit. And please, don't try to critically appraise research publications."

On an international level, current evidence on the use of Ivermectin to treat COVID-19 patients is also still inconclusive

Ivermectin is a broad spectrum antiparasitic drug, commonly known for its effective treatment of onchocerciasis, strongyloidiasis, scabies, and other diseases caused by soil-transmitted helminths. In simpler terms, it is a drug to treat worms.

The MOH's precautionary stand echoes the recommendation of the World Health Organization (WHO), which has proposed for the drug to be only used in clinical trials until more data is available.

WHO found that data from 16 randomised controlled trials on Ivermectin as a potential treatment for COVID-19 were indefinite due to limitations in methodology and small trial sizes.

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