Dr Naseeba Kathrada is one of many doctors urging Ramaphosa to legalise ivermectin

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A general practitioner, Dr Naseeba Kathrada, has written to President Cyril Ramaphosa urging him to legalise the drug ivermectin for treatment of people suffering with Covid-19 infection.

Dr Kathrada is among almost 100 South African doctors who have signed the letter asking for the drug to be legalised for human consumption.

South African Health Products Regulatory Authority (SAHPRA) describes ivermectin as a widely-used drug for the treatment and control of parasites in animals. However, it is used for less common tropical diseases in humans not commonly seen in South Africa, as well as scabies and head lice.

The drug has been receiving a lot of media attention as several investigations revealed that it inhibits the replication of the severe acute respiratory syndrome coronavirus 2 (SARS-CoV-2).

On 22 December, SAHPRA reported: “Ivermectin is not indicated nor approved by SAHPRA for use in humans. There is no confirmatory data on ivermectin available as yet for its use in the management of Covid-19 infections.”

“Unprecedented times call for unprecedented measures”

However, Dr Kathrada feels that “unprecedented times call for unprecedented measures”. She released an appeal and names of doctors who have signed the letter on social media. Yesterday, Kathrada did a live reading of her plea to the president on Facebook.

“Mr President, I woke up this morning to the news that we have just experienced our country’s deadliest week with over 20 000 deaths in the past 7 days in this second wave as reported by News24.

“You announced a state of emergency, you authorised the setting up of emergency committees like the NCC and the MAC. We have covid ‘war rooms’ in every province and you locked down our country to level 3 to save lives and livelihoods,” Kathrada states.

She is pleading with the president, who has the authority to do so, to set up an urgent council to perform a thorough and rapid review of ivermectin. Kathrada feels that this announcement will bring a sense of hope to families who have infected loved ones.

“We as frontline workers, will be re-energised knowing that you trust us to uphold the oath ‘first do no harm’ by giving us this potent anti-inflammatory drug to add to our seemingly defenceless fight against this new strain.”

“Asking for doctors to apply for a section 21 per patient while some of us are seeing over 60 Covid-positive cases per day is nothing short of ridiculous.”

Why these doctors feel a trial is absurd:

1 – Ivermectin has been around since 1975.
2 – it is FDA approved and authorised for human use in many countries around the world.
3 – 4 countries have now added it to their Covid Treatment protocol.
4 – ivermectin has won the Nobel prize in medicine.
5 – most importantly – Mr President – the logistics of running a trial while thousands of people are dying in a week is beyond comprehension. There’s no money in running a trial for a refurbished drug, there’s no time to sit and fill in forms per person enrolled in a trial – moreover in full PPE.

According to Kathrada, hundreds of studies have already been done and new data is emerging every day showing the promise of ivermectin. This data is readily and easily available for review. This is not a miracle drug admits Kathrada, but it is a safe drug.

“Freedom of choice is a democratic right of the people of South Africa”

Thousands of doctors have been working tirlessly for months and Kathrada feels that if the president was to spare a few to do this urgent review.

“Respected President – I implore you at this time of need – legalise ivermectin – trust us – the health professionals who are the most vulnerable against this disease – to dispense ivermectin with informed consent. Give us the freedom of choice to take this drug as prophylaxis so that we have a better chance to be around when the vaccine arrives to help roll that out,” Kathrada concludes.

Ivermectin has been declared illegal in South Africa. SAPHRA has received a lot of flack lately and, although a necessary body, they are “not the most popular organisation amongst lay people and healthcare workers alike at this point”.