Romanian doctors have warned against taking an anti-parasite drug ivermectin as a treatment for Covid-19 despite reports that have touted it as a cure.
Some Romanians have rushed to buy it from veterinary pharmacies despite medics’ warnings.
It is authorized for only as a cream in Romania and pharmacists warn that the administration of the veterinary drug to humans is not safe.
Veterinary pharmacies in the southern county of Teleorman county say they have run out of ivermectin stocks after reports that it could treat Covid-19.
Many pharmacists and vets say it is unsafe for humans, but there are not enough studies to show its side effects.
Ivermectin was discovered in 1975 and came into medical use in 1981. The U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) has approved it as an anti-parasitic agent.
“Although it’s been proven to be a very good anti-parasite drug, it is carcinogenic as it accumulates in the organism. Friends and acquaintances, don’t treat yourselves according to rumors and sources. The only way to avoid the Covid-19 infection is the vaccine,” wrote Petru Antonio Mureșan, a vet from the city of Cluj.
Alexandru Rafila, Romania’s World Health Organization representative said: „The idea that people should be encouraged to consume this product…. is totally wrong, and we must analyze the consequences of this campaign in which it is suggested that ivermectin can be taken in the long term because it would protect us from Covid-19,” he told Antena 3 television station.
„Taking a very toxic medicine for a long time can lead to severe problems,” Dr. Rafila said on Tuesday.
In Teleorman, residents have been buying up the drug in the hope of treating the virus. „We’ve had quite frequent requests in the past four-five days. So far, we only gave it for dogs, for scabies, parasites. … Now people are asking about it, but we no longer have it in stock, “ Mirela Stancioi, the owner of a veterinary pharmacy in Teleorman, told Presshub.ro on Tuesday.
Social media posts endorsing ivermectin have proliferated not only in Romania, but in Brazil, France and South Korea as governments around the world scramble to roll out vaccination programs.
But health agencies say that there is not enough evidence to promote the drug as a remedy for coronavirus and that research into the question has often been unsound.
Ivermectin has long been used to treat parasites such as head lice and has been widely distributed in sub-Saharan Africa since the 1990s to treat river blindness.
The pandemic has prompted a surge in demand for the drug, particularly in Latin America.
Some politicians have, however, continued to endorse the drug.
Brazilian President Jair Bolsonaro, in a tweet this month, claimed that ivermectin could be responsible for the relatively low number of coronavirus deaths in Africa.
Ivermectin is one of a string of medications tested as a potential Covid-19 treatment since the pandemic began.
Like anti-malaria drug hydroxychloroquine _ so far unproven by clinical trials _ ivermectin is widely available and relatively cheap.
The U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) cautioned last month that that drug had not been approved to prevent or treat Covid-19.
„While there are approved uses for ivermectin in people and animals, it is not approved for the prevention or treatment of Covid-19,” it said on its website.