Health Minister Zweli Mkhize says doctors who want to use Ivermectin to treat Covid-19 symptoms should register with the South African Health Products Regulatory Authority (Sahpra) to run clinical trials on the drug.
Mkhize was speaking during a visit to various KwaZulu-Natal hospitals on Monday.
The minister has been inundated with messages from people lobbying for the drug and has seen letters that were written to the president for the same reason.
“That regulatory authority has indicated that everyone is welcome to order the drugs and participate in a trial and therefore the authorisation can be given on that basis. That also means that not the regulator, but the doctors who are conducting that trial will have to be the ones who take responsibility,” Mkhize said on Monday.
“I would suggest that they take that route until we can get enough research reports to allow the drug to be registered across different jurisdictions. So, as we speak right now, we are saying doctors who wish to use it have to follow those rules. If it is done in a research format that has been prescribed by Sahpra, they should be able to take responsibility for it,” he added.
The drug has been making headlines in South Africa. There have been several reports of doctors who not only support it but prescribe it to patients.
The drug is usually used for the treatment of parasites in animals and several tropical diseases in humans that are not commonly seen in South Africa.
Research in some countries suggested that the drug could be used to manage Covid-19 symptoms.
In South Africa, it is registered under the Department of Agriculture for use in animals. As such, it is illegal for people who do not have permits or are not trained to use it, to have it in their possession.
“The reports that have come about are not yet reflected in the kind of trials we would have needed for Ivermectin to be registered. So what we do need is an understanding that from where we see it, we will only register a drug that is based on the decision of Sahpra,” Mkhize said.
At the beginning of January, a 43-year-old man was arrested at King Shaka International Airport in Durban in alleged possession of Ivermectin parasiticide tablets valued at R100 000. He was returning from Dubai when the 2 464 tablets were allegedly found in his hand luggage.
Meanwhile, provincial health MEC Nomagugu Simelane-Zulu said they would probe media reports of patients who died in certain hospitals as a result of load shedding. She said protocol dictated that generators should kick in less than 20 seconds after the hospital loses power.
Simelane-Zulu said that in places like uMgungundlovu, power outages were rife but they had not lost any patients as a result of the outages.
Mkhize added that there was a need to be cautious about making statements on the allegations without tangible evidence.
Mkhize will also conduct similar visits in Limpopo and Gauteng.