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Defensor: Poor patients can afford Ivermectin

ANAKALUSUGAN Rep. Mike Defensor on Friday chided the Department of Health (DoH) for preferring two costly investigational coronavirus disease-19 (COVID-19) therapeutics over what he described as inexpensive “wonder drug” Ivermetin that the poor can afford.

“The DoH continues to spend hundreds of millions, maybe billions, of pesos to buy Remdesivir and Tocilizumab, not to mention the purchases of private hospitals,” Defensor said.

Defensor cited the recent statement of treatment czar DoH Undersecretary Leopoldo Vega that new imported stocks of the two therapeutic products were due to arrive in the country to replenish dwindling supply.

Defensor said Remdesivir costs P28,000 for two shots daily (for about three to five days) while the price of Tocilizumab is about $2,000.

In contrast, he said Ivermectin, which is also an investigational drug like its two more expensive rivals, costs only P35 per tablet.

For DoH hospitals, he said it is Philhealth that shoulders the price of Remdesivir and Tocilizumab, while for private hospitals, the cost “is borne by desperate private citizens who try to save their sick loved ones.”

Defensor added that the DoH and the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) are allowing the use of Remdesivir against the advice of the World Health Organization (WHO).

“We were part of the WHO solidarity trial and yet we do not follow their recommendations and continue to allow Remdesivir to be given to COVID-19 patients. For Remdesivir, we don’t follow and DOH continues to purchase it, but for Ivermectin, where data is still inconclusive and clinical trials are allowed, the DoH and the FDA crack down on supply,” Defensor stressed.

He said Ivermectin is listed in the WHO, Philippine FDA and US FDA list of essential drugs.

“It is considered a wonder drug, along with penicillin and aspiring. It is one of the safest, with a testimony spanning 40 years. It has a 3.7 billion dosage on record,” he said.

Defensor admitted that Ivermectin “is not a registered drug, but that’s because for many years, it was donated for river blindness and other parasitic illnesses.”

“Can the DOH and FDA allow its production? Yes, in the same manner that they have allowed the expensive drugs to be used. An administrative order (AO) allowing drug manufacturers to produce Ivermectin can be issued. The AO would allow them to import legally without facing arrest and confiscation of products given the current policy of the DOH and the FDA,” he said.

Defensor said the poor can easily afford the P35 Ivermectin.

“We can save many lives without draining government and Philhealth coffers or making families, including the poor, pay huge sums for the hospitalization of their loved ones,” he said.