Concerns over Ivermectin black market sales and product availability

Valerie Cilliers, editor, SA Graan/Grain
Published: 01 February 2021

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Animal health company, Afrivet, issued a statement on Thursday 28 January, calling for the public to be responsible when procuring Ivermectin.

‘The very sudden demand increase for Ivermectin injectable products based on beliefs that Ivermectin may help prevent and treat COVID-19, is directly impacting the animal health industry,’ the statement read.

Ivermectin formulated for human use, has been licensed in several forms in a number of countries for the treatment of various conditions, including headlice, scabies, mites and river blindness. The South African Health Products Regulatory Authority (SAHPRA) has, however, confirmed that there is no formulation of Ivermectin for human use available in South Africa.

Afrivet is concerned that people are now turning to the animal formulations. ‘These formulations are different from those registered for human use. Their safety has never been tested in people. It is also illegal to recommend or use these in humans.’

The statement further relays concerns about the growing black market in the import, manufacturing and selling of Ivermectin products, often at exorbitant prices. ‘Desperate people, who have seen the calls in the press and social media from many doctors and credible sources internationally for the product to be ‘legalised’ for use in the prevention and treatment of COVID-19, do desperate things – resulting in the growing black market,’ they added.

In an effort to respond to these appeals by health care practitioners and to curb the current widespread uncontrolled use of Ivermectin, SAHPRA has had engagements with the scientific and medical community to explore the options for controlled, monitored access to reliable-quality Ivermectin-containing products for human use.

SAHPRA indicated in a press briefing on Wednesday 27 January, that it will implement a compassionate-use access program via the legal framework of Section 21 of the Medicines and Related Substances Control Act (101 of 1965 as amended). ‘This access programme will utilise the opportunity to collect much-needed data on the performance of Ivermectin in South African patients through its COVI-VIG reporting platform,’ the authority said.

Afrivet is adamant that it will continue its efforts to combat the black market in Ivermectin-containing animal health products. ‘We will continue our focus on making these products available to the animal owners who need them to ensure that no health problems occur in their livestock herds due to the animal formulations’ unavailability.’