Ivermectin advocate solon says prescription on blank paper during distribution a 'non-issue'

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Metro Mania (CNN Philippines, April 30) — For staunch ivermectin advocate and Anakalusugan Party-list Rep. Mike Defensor, prescriptions that were written on a blank paper during the recent distribution of the antiparasitic drug to residents in Quezon City counts as a "non-issue."

"It’s a non-issue," Defensor told CNN Philippines' The Source on Friday. "It’s a non-issue because you only have four doctors, you have four tables. Alam mo naman yung signature nila (you could easily identify their signatures)."

Defensor, Sagip Party-list Rep. Rodante Marcoleta, and some physicians from the Concerned Doctors and Citizen of the Philippines led the distribution of ivermectin to residents of Barangay Old Balara on Thursday

It took place despite the previous warning of the Department of Health that only hospitals which were granted special permits could give the drug to COVID-19 patients. For the Food and Drug Administration, however, the event is allowed as long as valid prescriptions will be made on the compounded drug. 

Photos of some ivermectin prescriptions which were simply written on a blank bond paper have gone viral on social media, with netizens questioning the lack of major details such as the name, address, and the professional registration number of the physician giving out the drug.

Prior to receiving ivermectin, residents were also required to sign a waiver which holds distributors free from any legal liability. The drug is not yet registered for human use in the country as clinical trials are still slated for May.

"I have to be assured na baka mamaya magsabotahe," Defensor said. "There's so much movement to kill ivermectin, to kill the supply in the market. Talagang pinapatay nila (Some parties are really keen on killing it)."

The lawmaker also explained the other steps that residents went through during the distribution. This included filling out an information sheet for pre-registration, a brief consultation, and a prescription from the volunteer doctors. A separate table was set up for handing out the capsules.

Over 2,000 capsules were distributed to over 200 individuals, with each one getting 10 capsules, Defensor added.

"Ang prescription na hawak nila apat lang yan at may kanya-kanyang pirma (For the prescriptions, only four doctors were stationed there) and it’s identifiable. I don’t think it’s a problem," Defensor explained.

"These are all medical and licensed doctors," he also said. "We were the ones who organized it with them. They can easily identify who the doctors are if need be."

Defensor, however, also noted that according to existing guidelines imposed by the government, doctors may get their licenses revoked for prescribing the drug.

"It started with DOH," he said. "DOH ang nagsabi na 'pag binigyan mo ng prescription ang ivermectin, we will revoke your license."

[Translation: It started with the DOH. It is the DOH who said that if you prescribe ivermectin, we will revoke your license.]

In a separate interview with ANC, Health Secretary Francisco Duque III said the FDA must investigate how the prescriptions were made during the event. He said that under the law, specific details such as the names and address of the physician and the patient, as well as the date of prescription and tax receipt number must be included in a standard prescription.

Medical experts have repeatedly warned there is still no concrete evidence that the drug can be used as treatment against the coronavirus.

In a statement in March, the World Health Organization already said ivermectin must only be used within clinical trials, as the current evidence on its effectivity against COVID-19 is "inconclusive."

Even pharmaceutical giant Merck, the company behind ivermectin, said the drug has not shown any scientific basis for a potential therapeutic effect against COVID-19 from pre-clinical studies.

Justice Secretary Menardo Guevarra said it is the call of law enforcers whether lawmakers behind the distribution can be arrested for the initiative.