Two lawmakers who are vocal about their support for ivermectin proceeded to distribute the anti-parasitic drug for free despite health advisories against it.
The Department of Health and the Food and Drug Administration had been firm in their position against the use of ivermectin to prevent and treat patients infected with novel coronavirus, citing that the drug is not approved for any viral infection.
Based on reports, Deputy Speaker Rodante Marcoleta (Sagip party-list) and Rep. Michael Defensor (Anakalusugan party-list) distributed ivermectin to residents of Barangay Matandang Balara in Quezon City on April 29.
Doctors were also present in the vicinity to provide prescriptions for the medicine.
Moreover, residents who lined up were also required to fill out a form before doctors can prescribe them the capsules.
Photos of the activity immediately circulated online, prompting concerned Filipinos, especially doctors to question the legality behind it.
“What’s up with these law breaking law makers? Shouldn’t they be jailed or something?” one user wrote.
“Why is this even allowed?” another user said.
Another user also pointed out that the World Health Organization had advised Ivermectin to be distributed within clinical trials only.
“Free distribution of Ivermectin, technically siguro allowed as long as this med will be used sa mga hayop. Pero to use it as COVID-19 treatment I could have legal repercussions kasi WHO itself allows it only for clinical trial. Pasado bang clinical trial ang distribution na ito?” the user said.
Dr. Winlove Mojica, also known as The Skin Sensei, also discouraged others from going there.
“Wag kayo pumunta. Maawa kayo sa sarili niyo. Wag niyo na dadagdagan ang problema ninyo,” Mojica wrote.
Another physician Carlo Trinidad questioned the need for people to fill out a request form that looked like a waiver.
“Akala ko ba effective? Akala ko ba safe? Bakit may waiver pa sa dulo? Shame on all of you, most especially the doctors who staked their licenses to participate in this shenanigan,” Trinidad said.
The distribution of any health product not registered with the FDA is prohibited under Republic Act 9711 or the FDA Act of 2009, wherein:
“The manufacture, importation, exportation, sale, offering for sale, distribution, transfer, non-consumer use, promotion, advertisement, or sponsorship of any health product which, although requiring registration, is not registered with the FDA pursuant to this Act.”
Any person who violates this provision may face the penalty of imprisonment from one to ten years or a fine ranging from P50,000 to P5 million.
In FDA’s advisory about Ivermectin, it was stated that the registered medicine for human use are not for COVID-19 treatment.
“Currently, the registered Ivermectin products in the country for human use are in topical formulations under prescription use only. This is used for the treatment of external parasites such as head lice and skin conditions such as rosacea,” read the advisory.
In line with the free distribution, the Department of Justice later stated that arresting violators of the law are up to the enforcers.
Marcoleta and Defensor named their initiative as “Ivermectin Pan-three,” in reference to the community pantries that sprouted in many parts of the country, wherein each beneficiary will receive at least three tablets of the drug.
Defensor also threatened the FDA of possible legal actions should it interfere against the event.
FDA Director Eric Domingo, in turn, responded that he has no objection against the distribution as long as there would be doctors who will run the checkups of the patients queuing.
The FDA early this month move to grant compassionate use for Ivermectin to a hospital. It also said that some hospitals are similarly applying for compassionate use.