Facebook posts selling Ivermectin, an anti-parasite medication, have caught the eye of the police and investigators are tracking down the sellers who are not licensed to dispense or prescribe medicine.
There are dozens of posts on different social platforms selling the drug, which many users have claimed that it has helped them fight Covid-19.
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But no scientific research has proven this.
In April, after months of heated discussions, AfriForum, a civil rights organisation that mobilises particularly for Afrikaners, in collaboration with several doctors, won a case in the high court, allowing the prescription of Ivermectin for the treatment of Covid-19.
The court ruled that a registered pharmacist or medical practitioner could sell compounded medicine that contained Ivermectin as an active ingredient.
Search for “Ivermectin” on Facebook and up pops the marketplace tab and countless posts advertising Ivermectin and Ivermax in various forms — including some products that don’t contain Ivermectin, but have Ivermectin in the title or description. Prices on these posts range from R180 to R1 500.
Some people are even selling veterinary medicine for human use.
In one post a seller advertises Ivermax — which is an injectable parasiticide used on sheep, cattle and pigs — as “Ivermectin used for Covid” and “500ml for R700”.
This is illegal, according to Vish Naidoo, spokesperson for the police.
He says that although there are no cases against anyone selling Ivermectin online illegally, there are teams of investigators looking for sellers. These teams are working with the South African Health Products Regulatory Authority and cases will be opened against anyone selling Ivermectin or similar products online illegally.
According to section 29 of the Medicines and Related Substances Act of 1964, any person who publishes misleading advertisements about the use or efficacy of any medicine is guilty of an offence.
Ivermectin is classed as a schedule 2 substance. The section states that no person other than medical professionals and veterinary practitioners may sell any scheduled substances. Under section 30, offenders can be liable to pay a fine, or be subject to imprisonment of up to 10 years.
But Facebook sellers from all over the country, who will at a dime meet you at a garage or send your “Ivermectin” through a courier for an extra R99, are writing up their prescriptions.
One person is selling the product Ivotan, an antiparasitic for cattle, with 1% Ivermectin and directs buyers to rub it on their skin or drink it.
Barend Uys, the head of research at AfriForum, advises people not to buy Ivermectin or similar products from the black market or online, because there’s no way of knowing what is in these products.
“Human medicine has been studied for use in humans. The composition, dosage, etc were developed for human use,” he says, but adds that veterinary medicine has not gone through the same trials and the safety for human use has not been determined.
He believes that many people are resorting to the veterinary versions because of the higher cost of medication for humans and out of desperation to treat or prevent Covid-19.
According to a study by the peer-reviewed journal, BMC Infectious Diseases, Ivermectin has no significant effect on preventing people with Covid-19 being admitted to hospital. The study found that patients who received Ivermectin still required invasive mechanical ventilatory support early in their treatment.
The researchers conducted a random, double-blind, placebo-controlled study among people in Argentina who had not been admitted to hospital with Covid-19. The trial, which took place between 19 August last year and February this year, consisted of 501 people.
Of all the individuals who participated in the study, 35 (6.99%) had to be admitted to hospital, with 14 belonging to the Ivermectin group and 21 to the placebo group.