The South African Health Products Regulatory Authority (SAHPRA) says it has processed 10 applications for the use of Ivermectin for the treatment of COVID-19.

The body briefed Parliament’s Portfolio Committee on Health on the use of the anti-parasitic drug. The Chief Executive Officer of SAHPRA, Boitumelo Semete, has repeated that there is insufficient data to approve the drug for use in humans.

The drug has been used elsewhere in the world to treat the virus, during small clinical trials.

Earlier this week, lobby group, AfriForum obtained an order from the High Court in Johannesburg that doctors may administer the drug in case of emergency, without waiting for the SAHPRA’s approval.

SAHPRA says it has embarked on a compassionate access programme for those who want to use Ivermectin. Those who apply for the use of the drug must be a registered health practitioner.

Health facilities must be able to store it safely and a doctor prescribing the drug to a patient takes full responsibility for the effects.

Semete says in January they received nearly 30 applications and in February, seven.

“Those applications we have received before the programme, we would’ve rejected based on insufficiency of data. Since this programme, we are sitting with 10, already processed. Of those 10, we have authorised those for named patients and didn’t have to go back to ask for more information.”

SAHPRA reviewing new data on the use of Ivermectin to treat COVID-19:

SAHPRA Chairperson, Helen Rees, says the board is closely monitoring all developments around the drug.

“Everyone, every clinician, every researcher would say this must be ongoing, sympathetic to those who are desperate to find a way to enhance what is available. I can’t say that Ivermectin saves lives. We don’t have enough data to say, ‘yes, it works or no it doesn’t work.’ And then we would also need to say to you what is the dose, how frequently do you use it and so on.”

Chairperson of Parliament’s Portfolio Committee on Health, Sdumo Dhlomo, has pleaded for cool heads with regards to the distribution and use of Ivermectin.

“There is no unanimity among doctors, but the body that represents them say the stance and approach by SAHPRA, they are in full support. I think we have to agree and be cautious in that and assist because whatever happens they will be responsible for the safety of our citizens.”