WALVIS BAY – Namibia’s runaway infection rate, numerous deaths and the search for a miracle against the third wave of Covid-19 have turned demand
for Ivermectin into a gold mine for black market peddlers of the parasitic medicine.
The drug, believed to be effective against Covid-19, has forced desperate Namibians to fork out as much as N$1 500 to get their hands on Ivermectin.
Tablets are being sold for as much as N$1 500 for 20 tablets on the informal market, while pharmacists all over the country are charging about N$20 per
tablet or N$195 for 10 tablets.
Ivermectin for animals in liquid form, according to Agra, costs about N$90; however, Namibians have been paying as much as N$800 for 50 millilitres on the black market.
A deadly June has seen Namibia record 615 deaths in the month so far, with over 1 000 new positive cases recorded every day.
Several medical aid funds yesterday indicated they are not paying for Ivermectin, even if a medical doctor prescribes it to use it against Covid-19.
The medication is used to treat many types of parasite infestations in animals.
In humans, this includes head lice, scabies and river blindness, among others.
In veterinary medicine, it is used to prevent roundworms, threadworms and other parasites.
However, Namibians from all walks of life have been advocating for the use of the drug to treat Covid-19. Namibians are queuing up at farmers’ retailers, such as Agra, to buy the animal medicine.
A group of 30 doctors in Namibia earlier also appealed to the health ministry and the Namibia Medicines Regulatory Council (NMRC) to approve ivermectin as a Covid-19 therapy.
Walvis Bay couple Andre and Willmien van Zyl, who contracted Covid-19 earlier this year, claimed they bought 20 Ivermectin tablets for N$1 500 from a South African supplier. “We used it for at least two weeks by just taking it with milk. We had no side effects and felt much better within those two weeks,” the van Zyl couple said yesterday.
The couple said they used the medicine with other medication that was prescribed by their doctor.
A Rehoboth woman who also contracted Covid-19 says that she paid N$700 for 20 tablets. She, however, did not state where she bought them.
“The pharmacy refused to sell them over the counter to me and my doctor was reluctant to prescribed Ivermectin to me but I found someone who sold it to me,” she said. She, however, said she had to consult her doctor at a later stage, as she developed nausea, nose bleeding and heavy stomach cramps.
A Walvis Bay man anonymously told New Era that a relative, who works in Windhoek, bought Ivermectin, meant for animals, on a large scale and sold it to him for N$500 a bottle.
“We have not taken it yet, as no one in my family tested positive for Covid-19,” he said.
Various other Namibians also shared on social media that they went the unconventional route to obtain the drug, as they could not get it without a prescription.
Various pharmacists and doctors yesterday expressed their concern over the use of Ivermectin as a treatment for Covid-19 and warned Namibians not to take it without consulting their medical doctors.
Pharmacies all over the country yesterday indicated they charge about N$25 for a tablet – by prescription only.
City Pharmacy pharmacist Nadia von Liewitz said they sell 10 tablets for $194 00.
“This is only when it is prescribed by a medical doctor. However, there has been a demand for it overall. We get about 10 scripts per day,” she said.
Pharmacist Andy Anderson from Jere-Dean Pharmacy in Rehoboth yesterday said there has been a huge interest in Ivermectin from residents of the Covid-19-ravaged town.
“We, on several occasions, had people enquiring how they should take the tablets. This clearly shows that there is a demand and a black market for it. The concern is whether these are genuine medicines or a knockoff of the brand,” he said.
A Walvis Bay pharmacist yesterday also expressed his concern over the use of Ivermectin, saying an unnecessary hype was created around the medicine that has now created a black market for it.
“The black market is a hype. You will not believe it. People buy it on the street and sent me pictures of it, asking how they should take it. It is absolutely ridiculous and the current pricing is so manipulative,” he said.
Meanwhile, the Namibia Medicines Regulatory Council last week said there is no data to support the use of Ivermectin to treat Covid-19.
The registrar of medicines, Johannes Gaseb, said the council consulted independent experts in relevant fields both locally and internationally, adding that available studies are insufficient, used differing dosing regimens and included various concomitant medications.
Drugmaker Merck & Co Inc, who manufactures Ivermectin, in February, said its analysis of available data does not support the safety and efficacy of its anti-parasite drug for the treatment of Covid-19.
“[There is] no meaningful evidence for clinical activity or clinical efficacy in patients with the Covid-19 disease, and a concerning lack of safety data in most studies. We do not believe that the data available supports the safety and efficacy of ivermectin be yond the doses and populations indicated in the regulatory agency-approved prescribing information,” the company stated. - firstname.lastname@example.org