Aussie doctor spruiks $2 virus ‘cure’
A renowned Sydney doctor is urging health authorities to give vulnerable people infected with coronavirus a cheap and freely available drug that he believes is an effective "cure".
Frontline medical workers should also be given it preventively to lower risk and in light of the large number who have contracted COVID-19 in Victoria, he argues.
Professor Thomas Borody, a gastroenterologist credited with developing a world-first cure for peptic ulcers, saving countless lives, has stepped up his advocacy for what he believes is the "answer to Australia's COVID-19 crisis".
Taken together, Ivermectin - a treatment for head lice that costs as little as $2 - combined with zinc and the antibiotic Doxycycline, could be a "potential lifesaver right now", Professor Borody said.
"These three medications are already approved," he said.
"They do not need preclinical or clinical trials nor additional (Therapeutic Goods Administration) approvals unless the aim is to combine in a single capsule, for example.
"Patient treatment programs have been done in the US and elsewhere which indicate it can work within four to six days."
A handful of South American countries have deployed Ivermectin as both a treatment and preventive measure after early laboratory research indicated it may eliminate COVID-19.
Professor Borody believes the combination of three approved 'off the shelf' drugs could be a "cure".
But experts have cautioned that any declarations of a coronavirus cure or treatment should be "taken with a grain of salt" given trials for a number of theorised medicines are in their early stages.
When asked about the drug's potential in treating coronavirus, Dr Ian Musgrave, a molecular pharmacologist from the University of Adelaide, said: "Oh no, not Ivermectin."
"No, it's not a cure for COVID-19," Dr Musgrave added.
"It works in test-tube experiments, but is unlikely to work clinically as it is hard to achieve effective plasma concentrations. No clinical trials data are available yet and in the absence of any public data, claims of the high efficacy are to be taken with a grain of salt."
Concerns have also been raised about some of the Ivermectin trials, with warnings that rushing it to human use might do more harm than good in coronavirus cases.
That hasn't stopped Professor Borody writing to both the Federal and Victorian Government urging authorities to heed his advice.
The Daily Telegraph today reported that those pleas have fallen on deaf ears and described Professor Borody as having "invented an effective, cheap, readily available treatment for COVID-19 and his own country ignored him".
"I wrote to the federal and state governments," he told the newspaper.
"I wasn't even responded to … It got to a certain level of the fortress, but I don't think it got to the decision-makers. You can see how frustrating it is, whereas a big state of India says 'let's use it'."
Australia hasn't exactly ignored Ivermectin, with a joint study by Monash University and The Doherty Institute back in April first sparking excitement about the drug.
Their early stage laboratory research showed Ivermectin had an effect on COVID-19 after just one exposure to the anti-parasitic medication. The initial results were published on April 3.
Dr Kylie Wagstaff from the Monash Biomedicine Discovery Institute's Dr Kylie Wagstaff, who led the study, said at the time the results were astounding but stressed it was early days.
"Ivermectin is very widely used and seen as a safe drug. We need to figure out now whether the dosage you can use it at in humans will be effective - that's the next step," Dr Wagstaff said.
Dozens of clinical trials were launched in multiple countries soon after.
Monash has received government funding to continue its research into the drug.
But concerns were raised soon after the Monash paper's publication about the "false hope" it might provide.
"Using the highest possible dose that's been studied in a human, it's 10 to 30 times short of where it needs to be," Professor Mark Sullivan, managing director at vaccine development company Medicines Development for Global Health, told The Age.
"You will hit safety problems far sooner than you will hit efficacy."
The journal that originally published the early findings has since published letters from other scientists cautioning about Ivermectin.
Professor Borody said he has reviewed the research, as well as the results of early trials abroad, and is confident his proposed tri-treatment is safe.
He also made the bold claim that it could be the "fastest and safest way" to halt the outbreak in Victoria, potentially in as little as four weeks.
"If nothing else, make it available in aged care homes immediately," he said.
"Our elderly are at the highest risk and this is a very safe option especially when we have nothing else except ventilators.
"Also, our frontline workers deserve more protection with a preventive medication like this, and as emergency treatment if they test positive.
"An Ivermectin tablet can cost as little as $2 - which could make it by far the cheapest, safest, and fastest cure for Australians and the Australian economy."
Originally published as Aussie doctor spruiks $2 virus 'cure'