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Outspoken reggae artiste enters Ivermectin debate

Wednesday, July 28, 2021

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The heated debate on the use of Ivermectin to treat COVID-19 continued yesterday when outspoken reggae artiste Tanya Stephens questioned the relevance of not allowing people to decide for themselves what they wish to take to reduce symptoms.

Stephens, one of the island's more socially conscious artistes, did not specifically name Ivermectin in her social media post; however, people following the debate deduced that she was referring to the tablet, which has been the subject of controversy between the health ministry and doctors.

“I need to take something to protect others. But taking it won't stop me getting or giving the malady to the others I'm supposed to be doing it for. It will reduce my symptoms (something the pill they're fighting has consistently done) which, in essence, means this is supposedly only of real benefit to me, but I don't get to decide on an alternative,” Stephens wrote in an Instagram post.

“Meanwhile every mention of any proven alternative and research results which counter the narrative being sold is censored and the trial being pushed is slowly becoming mandatory as per demand for proof of it to gain access to regular human activities, and that info is also being censored,” she added.

Stephens' post came a day after Health and Wellness Minister Dr Christopher Tufton confirmed that he had signed the import permit to allow stocks of Ivermectin into Jamaica.

TrialSite News reported Monday that Tufton signed the permit after rising cases due to the COVID-19 Delta variant and increasing public pressure.

“Supplies of the generic, anti-parasitic drug will come from Edenbridge Pharmaceuticals in New Jersey and be distributed by LASCO Pharmaceuticals in Jamaica,” the news outlet said, adding that “in general, doctors are pleased about having Ivermectin as an option”.

In confirming his action, Tufton cautioned that Ivermectin is used for parasite treatment and his ministry's advisory remains that there is “no evidence to indicate it will benefit COVID-19 patients”. He also pointed out that the drug is not offered in the public system, but “doctors and patients can decide how they choose to use” it.

In May, eight of the island's leading doctors had released an open letter to Dr Tufton and officials in the health and wellness ministry advocating the use of Ivermectin in the country's COVID-19 management strategy.

“From about the middle of 2020, an ever-increasing number of credible reports, studies and publications have demonstrated the safety and efficacy of Ivermectin in the management of the SARS-CoV-2 virus infection,” the doctors said.

“These numerous reports, which have come from many countries, have been meticulously and very helpfully collated in a number of meta-analyses which indicate the positive effect of the drug against the virus.

“We draw your attention, in particular, to the extensively and intensely researched publications and presentations from the Frontline COVID Critical Care Alliance in the Unites States, and from Dr Tess Lawrie, a medical statistician, and advisor to the World Health Organization (WHO).

“Dr Lawrie's real-time meta-analysis of 52 studies, including 27 randomised controlled trials, reported the following in respect of Ivermectin efficacy: a significant prophylactic effect, 81 per cent improvement in early cases, 43 per cent improvement in late cases, and an overall reduction in mortality of 76 per cent,” the doctors stated in their letter.

They said that Dr Lawrie's conclusion is that “Ivermectin is an effective treatment for COVID-19. The probability that an ineffective treatment generated results as positive as the 52 studies to date is estimated to be 1 in 85 trillion.”

The doctors argued that there is no need to await the outcome of further trials of the drug, adding that any call for local trials prior to approval is unnecessary, as time, resources, and ethical approval would not permit.

However, the ministry has maintained that after spending a considerable amount of time reviewing the available data, there is not enough information to recommend for or against the use of Ivermectin for COVID-19 treatment.

The local doctors who signed the open letter are:

* Professor Brendan Bain, consultant physician and infectious disease specialist

* Dr Hafeezul Mohammed, consultant physician and cardiologist

* Dr Michael Banbury, chief executive officer, Medical Associates Hospital and Medical Centre

* Dr Neville Ballin, consultant anaesthetist and pain specialist

* Dr Michael Abrahams, consultant obstetrician and gynaecologist

* Dr Garth Rattray, family practitioner

* Dr Alfred Dawes, consultant surgeon

* Dr Charles Royes, consultant surgeon

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