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Substandard and falsified ivermectin tablets obtained for self‐medication during the COVID‐19 pandemic as a source of potential harm

  • Vanhee, Celine
  • Jacobs, Bram
  • Kamugisha, Angélique
  • Canfyn, Michael
  • Van Der Meersch, Hans
  • Ceyssens, Bart
  • Deconinck, Eric
  • Van Hoorde, Koenraad
  • Willocx, Marie
Publication Date
Jan 01, 2024
Ghent University Institutional Archive
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In 2019, a global viral pandemic, due to the SARS‐CoV‐2 virus, broke out. Soon after, the search for a vaccine and/or antiviral medicine began. One of the candidate antiviral medicines tested was ivermectin. Although several health authorities warned the public against the use of this medicine outside clinical trials, the drug was widely used at the end of 2020 and in 2021. Simultaneously, several reports started to emerge demonstrating serious adverse effects after self‐medicating with ivermectin. It stands to reason that the self‐administration of substandard or falsified (SF) medicines bearing harmful quality deficiencies have contributed to this phenomenon. In order to have a better view on the nature of these harmful quality deficiencies, SF ivermectin samples, intercepted in large quantities by the Belgian regulatory agencies during the period 2021–2022, were analyzed in our official medicines control laboratory. None of the samples (<jats:italic>n</jats:italic> = 19) were compliant to the quality criteria applicable to medicinal products. These SF products either suffered from a systematic underdosing of the active pharmaceutical ingredient or were severely contaminated with bacteria, two of which were contaminated with known pathogens that cause gastrointestinal illness upon oral intake. In addition to the direct risks of self‐medicating with such a product, the improper usage and dosage of ivermectin medication might also facilitate ivermectin tolerance or resistance in parasites. This may have detrimental consequences on a global scale, certainly as the number of newly developed active pharmaceutical ingredients that can safely be used to combat parasites is rather scarce.

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