The government looks set to bow to growing pressure to allow for the use of Ivermectin in the treatment of Covid-19 cases.
This follows recommendations by the Botswana Covid-19 Ivermectin Intervention Group (BCIIG). In a statement this week the Ministry of Health acknowledged the efforts by the pressure group to identify gaps in the healthcare system and advice on possible solutions.
“After intense internal deliberations on your request for urgent consideration and use of Ivermectin on Covid-19 patients, MoHW has resolved that BCIIG should come up with a proposal for use of Ivermectin under clinical studies. This is also in line with WHO current recommendation that Ivermectin can be used in humans only under clinical trials,” the Ministry said in a statement. They said that in accordance with Botswana National Drug Policy (BNDP), the Ministry has an obligation to ensure that drugs of acceptable safety, efficacy and quality are available, accessible and affordable to those who need them.
“Furthermore the BNDP stresses evidence based and rational use of such medicines by prescribers, dispensers and patients.”
BCIIG is a group of multi-disciplinary scientists, healthcare professionals and community members, currently advocating for urgent consideration and use of Ivermectin and all other possible therapeutics against COVID-19.
In a position paper on the administration of the drug, the group recommends the inclusion of Ivermectin in the COVID-19 prevention and treatment protocols in Botswana. Leader of Opposition Dumelang Saleshando this week also weighed in on the Ivermectin debate calling on the government to seriously consider the use of the medicine.
“Since the outbreak of Covid 19, there has been debate on the medical use of Ivermectin for Covid-19 patients. Experts in countries like the United Kingdom, Italy, Spain and Japan have published reports that show how the drug significantly reduces mortality. An increasing number of countries are approving the use of the drug for Covid patients, including South Africa and Zimbabwe. Why is Botswana not considering the use of the drug given the uncontrollable increase in infection,” Saleshando told Parliament this week.
Earlier this year the World Health Organization (WHO) called the evidence on the use of Ivermectin to treat COVID-19 patients inconclusive.
“Until more data is available, WHO recommends that the drug only be used within clinical trials. This recommendation, which applies to patients with COVID-19 of any disease severity, is now part of WHO’s guidelines on COVID-19 treatments,” the Organization said in March this year (2021).
Ivermectin is a broad spectrum anti-parasitic agent included in WHO essential medicines list for several parasitic diseases. It is used in the treatment of onchocerciasis (river blindness), strongyloidiasis and other diseases caused by soil transmitted helminthiasis. It is also used to treat scabies.
“A guideline development group was convened in response to the increased international attention on Ivermectin as a potential treatment for COVID-19. This group is an independent, international panel of experts, which includes clinical care experts in multiple specialties and also include an ethicist and patient-partners,” WHO said at the time. “The group reviewed pooled data from 16 randomized controlled trials (total enrolled 2407), including both inpatients and outpatients with COVID-19. They determined that the evidence on whether Ivermectin reduces mortality, need for mechanical ventilation, and need for hospital admission and time to clinical improvement in COVID-19 patients is of ‘very low certainty,’ due to the small sizes and methodological limitations of available trial data, including small number of events.”