GPs banned from prescribing ivermectin for COVID-19

The TGA has banned GPs from prescribing oral ivermectin for off-label uses, including for the treatment and prevention of COVID-19.

Announced on Friday, the restrictions mean they can only prescribe ivermectin in its oral form for TGA-approved indications: scabies and the parasitic infections that cause river blindness and intestinal strongyloidiasis.

Off-label use remains permitted by certain specialists, including infectious disease physicians, dermatologists, gastroenterologists and hepatologists.

In its statement, the medicines watchdog said there had been a 3-4-fold increase in dispensing of ivermectin prescriptions in recent months, leading to national shortages.

The ivermectin upsurge posed “a number of significant public health risks”, with fears patients would see the drug as an alternative to COVID-19 vaccination.

“[And] individuals who believe that they are protected from infection by taking ivermectin may choose not to get tested or to seek medical care if they experience symptoms.”

AMA vice-president Dr Chris Moy said the ban was an “unfortunate necessity” given some doctors were persisting with prescribing it against the best evidence.

“A doctor has to provide treatment that is of medical benefit,” he said.

The TGA added there were risks associated with the doses being promoted on social media for COVID-19, which were significantly higher than those approved and found safe for scabies or parasite treatment.

“These higher doses can be associated with serious adverse effects, including severe nausea; vomiting; dizziness; neurological effects, such as dizziness, seizures and coma,” it said.

Ivermectin has been actively promoted by a fringe group calling itself the Covid Medical Network.

In a recent open letter to GPs, which also questioned the safety of COVID-19 vaccines and suggested N95 masks were not capable of reducing viral transmission, it said there was “abundant evidence” supporting its use in combination with doxycycline, azithromycin and vitamin D3.

“We believe doctors have an obligation to be informed of this and to offer such choices as preventative or early treatment alternatives to their patients,” the letter said.

Gastroenterologist Dr Thomas Borody, the inventor of triple therapy for Helicobacter pylori and a pioneer of faecal transplant therapy, has also called on GPs to consider prescribing a triple therapy of ivermectin, doxycycline and zinc.