Medicine meant for animals wrongly used to 'cure' COVID-19

Desperate times call for desperate measures

People are still taking a dangerous drug known as Ivermectin meant to kill worms in domestic animals in an attempt to cure COVID-19.

Ivermectin, an antiparasitic drug typically used on horses, and it became falsely known as a COVID-19 therapy when conspiracy groups in the United States started swearing by its use as a self-treatment drug.

Late last year, Dr. Pierre Kory, founder of the outspoken Front Line Covid-19 Critical Care Alliance, called it a “wonder drug” and pushed officials to authorize its use against the pandemic.

Ivermectin can be purchased at animal feed stores and online pharmacies like DAWAPAP. It’s been flaunted as a “cure-all” to COVID-19 amongst conspiracy groups. In some cases, people are taking it as a preventative measure.

All of this is false, as the animal version of ivermectin is toxic to human beings, especially at the levels self-curers are taking it.

In fact, earlier this year, the Centers for Disease Control (CDC) has seen an uptick in calls surrounding COVID self-cures and ivermectin has played a large role in this spike.

While there are versions of ivermectin that are intended for human-use, the American Food and Drug Administration (FDA) issued warnings against the drug because of the growing and misguided popularity of its use for self-COVID cures.

They warn that human-use versions of the drug are applicable to highly-specific ailments like some caused by parasitic worms, or even head lice.

"Ingesting any prescribed dosage of the drug, however, is extremely dangerous, and one should never buy ivermectin for human treatment," FDA said.

Drugs shortage

Kenya's fight against Covid-19 faces a major hurdle after it emerged that the key antiviral drugs Remdesivir and Actemra are almost out of stock.

The acute shortage of the drugs, which are crucial in the treatment of patients with Covid-19 symptoms, comes at a time the country is recording a surge in infections, with more than 1,000 patients in intensive care and the positivity rate at a high of 15%.

According to data from the Pharmacy and Poisons Board, there are only 2,000 vials of Remdesivir in the country, spread among a handful of importers.

The latest wave of infections, driven by the highly transmittable delta variant, which was first reported in India, has increased demand for the drugs and strained services at major referral hospitals.

With the drugs out of stock at the stores of major suppliers, all indications are that all is not well even as the Health ministry races to expand vaccine protection.

“We issued a few more permits last week for the importation of the drugs and already we have 1,300 vials of Actemra 80mg and 400mg for Roche Pharmaceuticals at the airport awaiting clearance,” Dr Fred Siyoi, the PPB Chief Executive Officer said.

Remdesivir has been found to speed up recovery of severely ill Covid-19 patients, though the World Health Organization has questioned its effectiveness.

The drug also reduces the duration and severity of illness. The PPB approved the drug for emergency use on Covid-19 patients and permitted five Kenyan companies to import and supply it to hospitals.

Global shortage

In most private hospitals across the country, Remesdivir goes for Sh7,000 per vial while Actemra, which is considered the most expensive drug in the treatment of severely ill patients, retails at Sh180,000 per vial.

A patient can be given two vials a day, depending on the severity of the disease and length of stay in the ICU.

Yesterday, Roche Phamaceuticals, the manufacturer of the arthritis drug Actemra, admitted they were finding it difficult to keep up with the drug’s demand.

The firm does not have any 200mg and 400 mg vials of the drug and expects the same fate for its 80mg supply by the end of the week.

While more shipments are due by the end of August, the firm has warned that its stock may run out earlier given the high rate of infection.

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