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VERA FILES FACT CHECK: Party-list group’s FB post on ivermectin use for COVID-19 needs context

Bagong Henerasyon Party-list, in its official Facebook (FB) page, claimed that doctors are now allowed to prescribe ivermectin to their patients, citing a statement by Health Secretary Francisco Duque III. This needs context.

Doctors may prescribe ivermectin for experimental treatment of the coronavirus disease 2019 (COVID-19) if they work for a hospital that has been issued a special permit.

Ivermectin, as a registered antiparasitic drug, may also be prescribed by doctors “off-label” or outside its intended use. But health and drug authorities do not encourage it.

STATEMENT

On June 10, the FB page of Bagong Henerasyon Partylist claimed that Duque, “in line with the [Food and Drug Administration (FDA)],” said doctors may prescribe ivermectin to patients. Its post urged medical societies “not to scare” their members against prescribing the drug, which, it said, was “being used in other countries to treat COVID-19.”

The post carried an infographic with bold text that read:

Doktor pwedeng magreseta ng Ivermectin (Doctors can prescribe Ivermectin)”

Source: Bagong Henerasyon Partylist official Facebook page, Klaro po ang pahayag ng ating Health Secretary… (Archived), June 10, 2021

The visual featured a screen grab of Duque during a June 9 House of Representatives hearing, superimposed with the quote:

“…and the DOH will make a strong reiteration regarding this to the Philippine Medical Association.”

FACT

The party-list group’s FB post failed to give the whole picture on official advice for prescribing ivermectin amid the COVID-19 pandemic.

Ivermectin is currently registered in the Philippines as an antiparasitic drug, not as treatment for COVID-19.

As of June 28, only six hospitals have been granted a compassionate special permit (CSP) by the FDA. This means doctors in these health facilities may prescribe the drug to treat COVID-19 patients with the latter’s consent.

It is also technically legal for doctors outside of these hospitals to prescribe ivermectin to COVID-19 patients off-label, but the FDA “does not encourage” this, FDA Director General Eric Domingo said in an interview with VERA Files Fact Check.

Off-label prescription is the “unapproved use of an approved drug … for a disease or medical condition that it is not approved to treat,” according to the United States (U.S.) FDA. (See VERA FILES FACT CHECK: Defensor claim that U.S. allows ‘off-label’ use of ivermectin as COVID-19 treatment is misleading)

In a media forum on May 28, Health Undersecretary Maria Rosario Singh-Vergeire said the “accountability and liability” for the off-label prescription of ivermectin will “[rest] upon the physician who … prescribed it.”

The Philippine Medical Association (PMA) and the Healthcare Professionals Alliance Against Covid-19 (HPAAC) issued statements in early May, saying they do not recommend the prescription of ivermectin for COVID-19 treatment and prevention.

Ivermectin is not recommended for the treatment and prevention of COVID-19, according to the World Health Organization (WHO), drug manufacturer Merck, and the Philippine COVID-19 Living Recommendations. (See Debate over ivermectin, other touted COVID-19 cures illustrates case of ‘midinformation’: public health experts)

The U.S. FDA and the WHO classify ivermectin as an antiparasitic drug used orally to treat river blindness, parasitic worms, and skin conditions like rosacea.

Bagong Henerasyon Parylist’s post got over 1,900 reactions and nearly 200 comments and 220 shares as of publication.

It emerged a day after the House of Representatives Committee on Good Government and Public Accountability held an inquiry on June 9 about the DOH’s and the FDA’s public health policies related to the COVID-19 pandemic.


Sources

Bagong Henerasyon Partylist official Facebook page, Klaro po ang pahayag ng ating Health Secretary… (Archived), June 10, 2021

House of Representatives of the Philippines official Facebook page, COMMITTEE ON GOOD GOVERNMENT AND PUBLIC ACCOUNTABILITY, June 9, 2021

Inquirer.net, FDA grants product registration for ivermectin as ‘anti-nematode drug’, May 7, 2021

ABS-CBN News, FDA approves ivermectin for human anti-parasitic treatment, May 7, 2021

Rappler.com, FDA OKs registration of ivermectin for human anti-parasitic treatment, May 7, 2021

GMA News Online, 6 hospitals received compassionate permit for ivermectin use vs. COVID-19 —FDA, May 5, 2021

CNN Philippines, Sixth hospital gets compassionate special permit to use ivermectin vs. COVID-19, May 5, 2021

Inquirer.net, FDA: 6 hospitals now have special permit to use ivermectin, May 5, 2021

Food and Drug Administration Director General Eric Domingo, personal communication, June 24, 2021

Food and Drug Administration (United States), Understanding Unapproved Use of Approved Drugs “Off Label”, Accessed June 17, 2021

PTV official YouTube channel, PANOORIN: Public Briefing #LagingHandaPH | May 8, 2021, Accessed June 22, 2021

Philippine Medical Association, PMA STATEMENT ON THE USE OF IVERMECTIC FOR COVID, May 1, 2021

Healthcare Professionals Alliance Against Covid-19, A UNIFIED STATEMENT ON IVERMECTIN, May 5, 2021

Rappler YouTube channel, House hearing on the Philippines’ COVID-19 response | Tuesday, March 30, Accessed June 17, 2021

Merck, Merck Statement on Ivermectin use During the COVID-19 Pandemic, February 4, 2021

Philippine Society of Microbiology and Infectious Diseases, Philippine COVID-19 Living Recommendations, Accessed June 17, 2021

Food and Drug Administration (United States), FAQ: COVID-19 and Ivermectin Intended for Animals, April 26, 2021

World Health Organization, Ivermectin, Accessed June 17, 2021

(Guided by the code of principles of the International Fact-Checking Network at Poynter, VERA Files tracks the false claims, flip-flops, misleading statements of public officials and figures, and debunks them with factual evidence. Find out more about this initiative and our methodology.)