KUALA LUMPUR: The use of ivermectin as part of the Covid-19 treatment regime is currently being tested in 18 general hospitals nationwide, the Dewan Rakyat was told today.
Health Minister Datuk Seri Dr Adham Baba said on the whole about 500 high-risk patients with mild Covid-19 symptoms will be involved in the clinical trials to gauge the drug’s efficacy and safety.
“So far, about 200 Covid-19 patients have already taken part in the study and the results would be available in September,” he said.
Dr Adham said this in his wrap-up to questions raised by Dewan Rakyat members in their debate on public health and action to address the Covid -19 pandemic at the lower house of Parliament’s sitting today.
Several members of parliament, including R. Sivarasa (PH-Sungai Buloh), interjected during Dr Adham’s warp-up, seeking clarification on the ministry’s stand on the use of ivermectin to treat Covid-19 patients, to which the minister urged lawmakers to wait for the outcome of the randomised clinical trial results first.
When pressed further, he said the off-label use of pharmaceutical drugs could be submitted to the National Pharmaceutical Regulatory Agency (NPRA) for the agency’s approval.
Dr Adham explained that the government-sanctioned trials were crucial in ensuring that ivermectin was safe to use as part of Covid-19 treatment, because of existing limited data.
“India, which has previously used the drug (originally for treatment against parasites like worms), has since dropped its usage for Covid-19 treatment,” he said, adding that claims of ivermectin being safe for Covid-19 treatment without trials to back it up was misleading.
Ivermectin is an anti-parasite medication used to treat infections caused by roundworms, threadworms and other parasites.
On a separate matter, Dr Adham gave his assurances that no action would be taken against contract doctors who took part in the Hartal Doktor Kontrak (HDK) walkout on Monday.
He said as an interim move, the government has extended their contract by two years, while it reviewed the existing laws and policies.
“The Pension Act and Medical Act can be debated and I hope all MPs will give full cooperation in seeking a solution for this. We are looking at among others, either (making available) pension or EPF (Employees Provident Fund) for these doctors.”
A war of words erupted between Dr Adham and his predecessor Datuk Seri Dr Dzulkefly Ahmad (PH-Kuala Selangor) after the latter repeatedly pressed his successor on solutions the government will come up to resolve the problems faced by contract doctors.
“We are asking for longer tenure, eight years, not two years (as previously announced). The contract doctors are struggling and they are hoping to secure permanent positions,” said Dr Dzulkefly.
To this, Dr Adham said the two-year extension to the doctors’ housemanship was only an interim solution while the government looked into long-term measures to resolve the matter.
“When the time comes, please give your cooperation in debating and coming up with solutions,” he replied.