Published: 6 September 2021

Safety Information

Alert communication

Medsafe and the Ministry of Health strongly recommends that ivermectin is not used for prevention or treatment of COVID-19.

Risks of importing or prescribing ivermectin for prevention or treatment of COVID-19

6 September 2021

Medsafe has recently seen an increase in the attempted personal importation of ivermectin.

Ivermectin is a prescription medicine typically used to treat parasites in humans. It is also used for prevention of heartworm in small animals and treating parasites in various animals.

Ivermectin is NOT APPROVED to prevent or treat COVID-19, which means that Medsafe has not assessed the safety and efficacy for this use. Inappropriate use of ivermectin can be dangerous.

Ivermectin is not approved for the prevention or treatment of COVID-19

Ivermectin is not approved in New Zealand (or in other OECD countries) to prevent or treat COVID-19 disease in humans.

To date, Medsafe has not received any medicine application or clinical trial application for ivermectin for the prevention or treatment of COVID-19. However, the current evidence has been examined in a Cochrane review, which states: “We found no evidence to support the use of ivermectin for treating or preventing COVID‐19 infection, but the evidence base is limited.”

When ingested in high doses, ivermectin can have a serious effect on humans, with symptoms including low blood pressure, worsening asthma, severe autoimmune disorders, seizures and liver damage.

Stromectol is the only medicine containing ivermectin that is approved for use in New Zealand. It is approved for treating several parasitic diseases but NOT for the treatment of COVID-19. See the Stromectol data sheet for prescribing information and the known side effects.

If Stromectol is prescribed for an unapproved use (also called “off label use)” or consideration is given to prescribing imported ivermectin, prescribers must consider the potential risks and benefits and obtain informed consent from patients about the condition and treatment options. The Medsafe website has information on the considerations for doctors intending to prescribe a medicine for an unapproved indication.

Risks of importing ivermectin

Medsafe has recently seen an increase in attempted personal importation of ivermectin. Ivermectin is a prescription medicine and if it is detected at the border by Customs and referred to Medsafe, it can only be released to the individual on the authority of an authorised prescriber (usually a medical practitioner).

The authorised prescriber must be satisfied that the individual’s clinical need for the medicine outweighs the risks of taking the imported medicine. By authorising release, the authorised prescriber takes responsibility for prescribing the medicine for that individual.

Medsafe has not evaluated the safety, quality and effectiveness of medicines imported by patients. These medicines may be of poor quality, sub or super potent, contaminated, adulterated or counterfeit. Taking these medicines can put people at serious risk of unpredictable or severe side effects.

More information

New Zealand

Medsafe: Patients importing medicines for personal use

Medsafe: Use of unapproved medicines and unapproved use of medicines

Ministry of Health: COVID-19 Science Updates (9 July 2021)

International advice

US Food and Drug Administration: Why you should not use ivermectin to treat or prevent COVID-19 (5 March 2021)

European Medicines Agency: EMA advises against use of ivermectin for the prevention or treatment of COVID-19 outside randomised clinical trials (22 March 2021)

Therapeutic Goods Administration: Risks of importing ivermectin for treatment of COVID-19 (23 August 2021)

Cochrane Database of Systematic Reviews: Ivermectin for preventing and treating COVID-19 (28 July 2021)

Health Canada: Ivermectin not authorized to prevent or treat COVID-19; may cause serious health problems (31 August 2021)

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