UPDF drug trial in jeopardy as Ivermectin fails Covid test

Photo combo: President Museveni and Finance minister Matia Kasaija. PHOTOS/ FILE

What you need to know:

The study was conducted on more than 1,300 adults infected with Covid-19 in 12 public health clinics in Brazil.

The acclaimed Covid-19 drug, Ivermectin for which President Museveni has ordered the Finance ministry to release Shs3 billion to conduct clinical trials is ineffective in treating the deadly disease, a trial conducted in Brazil has established.
The information is contained in a report titled ‘Effect of Early Treatment with Ivermectin among Patients with Covid-19,’ which was published on Wednesday in The New England Journal of Medicine.
The study, led by a researcher Dr Gilmar Reis, compared more than 1,300 adults infected with Covid-19 in 12 public health clinics in Brazil who received either Ivermectin or a placebo.

“Treatment with Ivermectin did not result in a lower incidence of medical admission to a hospital due to progression of Covid-19 or of prolonged emergency department observation among outpatients with an early diagnosis of Covid-19,” the study reads.
This finding corroborated earlier warning by Dr Bruce Kirenga, the director of Makerere University Lung Institute, that channelling the funds towards Ivermectin research would be equivalent to waste of resources.
He said the funds should instead be given to do research on other drugs.

Concern
“The Ministry of Health doesn’t have Ivermectin in the treatment guidelines but some doctors have been using it on an individual basis. Available studies indicate that it’s not very useful; some studies show that there is some benefit but most of the studies show that there is no benefit,” said Dr Kirenga, who has been treating Covid-19 patients at Mulago hospital.
“That proposal was written at a point when there was some evidence supporting the use. But right now additional evidence has been added. So there will be a need to review the current evidence against what had been planned,” he added.
The Finance minister, Mr Matia Kasaija, whom the President addressed the letter to, couldn’t be reached for a comment by press time. 

Mr Jim Mugunga, the spokesperson of the Finance ministry, said he didn’t see the letter and so he could not comment.
The President explained in the February 22, 2022, letter to Mt Kasaija that his orders are based on evidence from a medical team.
“Sometimes back, I tasked the Uganda People’s Defence Forces (UPDF) Medical Team to research on the use of Ivermectin prophylaxis in the treatment of Covid-19 infection. Trials were carried out on sick soldiers and it was found to have benefits, especially in high-risk populations. I am informed that the study was carried out by the UPDF team together with Makerere University College of Health Sciences,” Mr Museveni wrote in the letter.

“The team needs to carry out a well-designed randomised controlled study to evaluate the dozing and scheduling of Ivermectin. The findings will inform policy and guide on Ivermectin prophylaxis’ effectiveness in the treatment of Covid-19. To be able to carry out the studies, the team requires Shs3 billion,” he added.
 

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