The Ministry of Health (MoH) has warned healthcare workers against using head lice drug Ivermectin to treat Covid-19 patients.
Speaking during the official launch of 2021 Covid -19 Case Management Guidelines by MoH on Friday, Health Chief Administrative Secretary Rashid Aman urged adherence to the ministry’s guidelines.
“It is important that healthcare workers follow guidelines given by the government on treatment of Covid-19 so as to avoid unnecessary complications and even death that may arise from using unauthorised drugs,” Dr Aman said.
This comes after investigations by Nation.Africa identified Nairobi, Kisumu and Mombasa as the places where the drug which was declared unfit for human use by the Pharmacy and Poisons Board (PPB) is used.
Dr Loice Ombajo, an infectious disease specialist at Kenyatta National Hospital (KNH) said there is still no evidence to support use of the drug.
“There is still insufficient evidence for using Ivermectin to treat Covid-19 or to show that it has prevented Covid-19 deaths,” she said.
She cautioned doctors against administering antibiotics in the treatment of coronavirus explaining that there is no evidence to prove that they are effective.
According to America’s Centers for Disease Control (CDC), the use of antibiotics promotes antibiotic resistance.
Dr Marybeth Maritim, who is an infectious disease specialist at KNH, also urged medics to observe the laid down guidelines.
“The Pharmacy and Poisons Board has approved various drugs such as Remdesivir under emergency use authorisation and it is therefore important that healthcare workers use only authorised drugs when treating Covid-19 patients,” Dr Maritim said.
In August this year, an official response to Nation.Africa on the use of Ivermectin from PPB made it very clear that it has only approved the use of Ivermectin to treat lymphatic filariasis, commonly known as elephantiasis, one of many neglected tropical diseases.
“Current evidence does not support the use of Ivermectin for treatment or prevention of Covid-19, and thus is not licensed for use in management of Covid-19 in Kenya,” the official response read.
According to MoH the drug is harmful.
“Ivermectin is currently on international health regulators’ radar — it is seen to be potentially harmful as per the World Health Organisation.
“The FDA [US Food and Drug Administration] has not reviewed data to support use of ivermectin in Covid-19 patients, however, some initial research is under way. Taking a drug for an unapproved use can be very dangerous,” said the FDA last month.
“You can also overdose on Ivermectin, which can cause nausea, vomiting, diarrhoea, hypotension (low blood pressure), allergic reactions (itching and hives), dizziness, ataxia (problems with balance), seizures, coma and even death,” it warns.
Dr Aman assured that the new guidelines reflect the country’s contextual experience with coronavirus.
“In order to have a standardised way of addressing Covid-19 patients, I urge all healthcare workers to adopt these new guidelines,” he said.