This is the first time in the history of a disease that its course is so anxiously charted and its possible surge predicted months in advance. Medical experts in India have forewarned of a third wave in the near future. Our government is pushing hard with vaccinations. But we have to ask the question: Even if vaccination is the best Covid terminator, is it the only one?
All estimates confirm that it will take eight to ten months to vaccinate an adequate number of people in our country. During that time, those who are unprotected while waiting for the vaccine will be vulnerable to infection. As lockdowns are relaxed, the virus will spread. Given the likelihood and the dreaded implications of a third wave, we need to look at other possibilities of halting the virus.
People have the right to know: In 1979, two scientists Campbell and Omura discovered the drug Ivermectin, which was found to be effective against a number of parasitic infestations. The drug was produced by the pharmaceutical company Merck and in the last 40 years of its use, 3.7 billion tablets have been consumed worldwide. It figures in the WHO list of essential drugs. The two scientists were awarded the Nobel Prize in Chemistry for their discovery. Ivermectin is safer than commonly used medicines like Ibuprofen, paracetamol, penicillin and aspirin. In India, every medical practitioner is familiar with this drug that is also safe for children. However, parasitic infestations are the bane of economically backward countries in Africa and Asia. For the manufacturer, it is not a profit-making drug, so Merck did not renew its patent after the early years. Ivermectin is now being produced by several companies.
In 2020, during the early months of the pandemic, an Australian scientist experimenting with Ivermectin in vitro found that it killed the Covid-19 virus. He wrote about his findings and it was noted by a doctor working in a large government hospital in Bangladesh. He used Ivermectin on 60 patients and found that it cured most of them. Moreover, none of them developed any serious complications of the disease.
As the news of this drug being effective in treating Covid spread, hundreds and then thousands of doctors began to use it all over the world. The results were extraordinary: When given in the early stage of viral replication (first five days) and along with other supportive vitamins, Ivermectin is far more effective than other more expensive drugs. In later stages of the disease also it works because of its anti-inflammatory properties that help avoid serious complications.
By August 2020, Ivermectin was being used in Bangladesh, Mexico, South Africa, Israel, Spain, Italy, Slovakia and Japan, besides in the US, UK and many countries in Europe. In India, a doctor in Deoria district of Uttar Pradesh has treated over 4,000 patients; another in Kandivali, Mumbai, has treated 6,000 (most of them from corporate houses) and a professor of ENT working in Mangaluru has treated over 4,000 patients. There are many others who have treated patients in large numbers. Those of us who work in smaller towns and rural areas have experience with several hundreds.
Ivermectin is also used as a preventive medicine for those who are at high risk of infection, like family members of Covid positive individuals and all frontline workers, which includes healthcare professionals, the police, traffic and railway personnel, bus, auto and taxi drivers, bank employees and more. It is useful in treating post-Covid complications and long Covid, although the most dramatic results are seen when it is used early. We believe that this drug should be quickly cleared for use countrywide and also provided to ASHA workers in their health kits, with clear instructions for use. In fact, Ivermectin should be given to all those who are not vaccinated or are partially vaccinated. After the initial three tablets given on three consecutive days, a once-weekly dose of 12 mg provides enough protection against the virus. When a drug that is safe and cheaply available can work effectively during the waiting period for the vaccine, is there any reason not to use it? Mass prophylaxis is a sure way of stopping transmission. It should be urgently implemented by the Centre, because all mechanisms of mutation and spread are not only of national but also international significance.
In December 2020, a group of medical experts formed the international Front-Line Covid-19 Critical Care Alliance (FLCCC) led by Drs Paul Marik, Umerto Meduri, Jose Inglesias, Peirre Kory and Joe Varon. In the UK, the British Ivermectin Recommendation Development panel (BIRD) was founded by a team led by Dr Lawrie. To date, there have been over 60 clinical trials and 31 randomised clinical trials done on 25,000 patients by 549 scientists on Ivermectin use in Covid-19 infections. They firmly endorse the universal use of the drug.
However, there is one dilemma: Major pharmaceutical companies around the world have invested trillions of dollars in the manufacture of vaccines. One can understand their need to recover costs and make profits by selling vaccines to every country. But it should not mean that we sacrifice millions of lives in order to make it okay for the companies. Sadly, this is happening. Drug control authorities around the world and (ironically) WHO itself chose to dismiss or stay indifferent to the sustained efficacy of Ivermectin. Medical professionals who work in super-speciality hospitals are none too happy about a drug that will drastically reduce hospital dependency.
The saddest part of the story is that the media has apparently chosen to look only at one side of the coin. What other explanation is there for the shrill publicity given to expensive drugs like Remdesivir and several newer drugs while the success, safety and ease of use of Ivermectin is treated with deafening silence? If patients can recover quickly with a tablet that can be taken at home, we can undo lockdowns, open up business and tourism, and run colleges and schools without waiting until the whole world is vaccinated. None of this is to say that vaccinations are not necessary. What we are trying to reinforce is that we should use the simpler, safer, quicker method of mass prophylaxis with Ivermectin as soon as possible. If properly planned, it can be done in a matter of days.
To put it simply, it makes very good sense to Ivermectinise the world while going ahead with vaccinations at the same time. Given the crumbling economy of many poor countries, universal vaccination is a long way off. Every single Covid patient is a risk to herself and the rest of the world.
In conclusion, we quote Michael Capuzzo, a five-time Pulizer shortlisted writer from his article on Ivermectin titled The Drug that Cracked Covid. He writes: “I do not know of a bigger story in the world than this.”
Dr Kavery Nambisan
Surgeon and writer, practising in Kodagu district, Karnataka
Dr Darrell Demello
Leading telemedicine practitioner from Kandivali, Mumbai
(Dr Demello has treated over 7,000 Covid patients)
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