Melbourne clinic offers ivermectin despite it not being approved as a Covid treatment
A medical clinic in Melbourne’s eastern suburbs has been offering patients off-label prescriptions for the anti-parasite drug ivermectin to treat Covid-19, despite a lack of evidence for its use in treating the virus.
The clinic set up a dedicated online page to apply for a consultation to be prescribed the drug to treat Covid-19 on its website after receiving an “influx of ivermectin inquiries”.
The clinic says there is no guarantee a prescription for ivermectin will be given, and it will depend on a risk assessment on issues such as location, work, contact with Covid-positive people and medical history.
Each consultation costs $85 and does not include a Medicare rebate.
The clinic was listed as a Tier 1 exposure site on Tuesday, after a Covid-positive case attended on 2 September. A caller to ABC Melbourne on Wednesday, who identified themselves as a hospital worker, expressed concern about people taking the drug, stating some had had “negative outcomes” and had to be admitted to hospital.
Guardian Australia attempted to call and email the clinic for comment.
Ivermectin is only approved for use in Australia for medical issues such as river blindness, scabies and roundworm infections. Medical practitioners can legally prescribe the medication off-label, but the Therapeutic Goods Administration has advised against using the drug to treat Covid-19 outside of clinical trial settings.
The National Covid-19 Clinical Evidence Taskforce, which examines studies of the drug around the world, said in late August that “there remains significant uncertainty whether ivermectin is more effective and safer than standard care in treating patients with Covid-19”.
The clinic is one of several believed to be prescribing ivermectin off-label to treat Covid-19 in Australia, however, sympathetic GPs usually do not promote offering the service, instead their details tend to be shared among private groups on Facebook and Telegram.
The Royal Australian College of General Practitioners president, Dr Karen Price, said while RACGP did not consider its role to be looking over the shoulders of every GP, she advised ivermectin had not received regulatory approval in Australia for use as an anti-viral treatment.
“In fact, the advice from the health experts is 100% clear – do not use ivermectin for the treatment of Covid-19,” she said.
“The status of other drugs, such as sotrovimab, is very different. That is an example of a new drug for the treatment of Covid-19 that has passed through the rigorous testing safety procedures of the Therapeutic Goods Administration.
Price said patients seeking out sympathetic GPs who may prescribe ivermectin should “ignore recommendations from anti-vaxxers, get yourself vaccinated against Covid-19 as soon as you can, tell your friends and family to do the same and abide by any Covid-19 restrictions in place”.
The drug’s use as a treatment for Covid-19 has grown in popularity, stemming from the US in the past few months. The popular podcast host Joe Rogan last week said it was one of the drugs he had taken to treat his Covid-19 infection.
The Therapeutic Goods Administration said last week there had been a shortage of Stromectol 3mg ivermectin tablets in August, and said there had been a tenfold increase in detections of people seeking to import the drug.
The Pharmaceutical Society of Australia also said its members had noticed a rise in people turning up with prescriptions for ivermectin who were refusing to say what it was for.
Guardian Australia has obtained a letter sent by the federal health minister, Greg Hunt, in August 2020 to the Australian gastroenterologist Prof Thomas Borody, one of the leading proponents of using the drug to treat Covid, in response to Borody requesting funding for his proposed triple-therapy treatment.
In the letter, Hunt encouraged Borody to apply for funding, but also noted he was aware of doctors prescribing off-label in the meantime.
“I acknowledge some physicians are prescribing ivermectin off-label. As you would know, the practice of prescribing registered medicines outside their approved indications is not regulated nor controlled by the Therapeutic Goods Administration, as it is at the discretion of the prescribing physician.”
The Victorian premier, Daniel Andrews, was asked about the clinic’s prescriptions but declined to comment due to not being across the detail.