Australia’s drug regulator has banned medical practitioners from prescribing the anti-parasitic drug ivermectin for “off-label” uses, such as for treating Covid-19.

The move comes after prescriptions for the drug increased between three and four times in Australia in recent months.

The Therapeutic Goods Administration announced the ban on Friday afternoon, acting on advice from the Advisory Committee on Medicines Scheduling.

People will now only be able to get an ivermectin prescription for TGA-approved conditions, including scabies and certain parasitic infections.

“These changes have been introduced because of concerns with the prescribing of oral ivermectin for the claimed prevention or treatment of Covid-19,” the TGA said.

“Ivermectin is not approved for use in Covid-19 in Australia or in other developed countries, and its use by the general public for Covid-19 is currently strongly discouraged by the National Covid Clinical Evidence Taskforce, the World Health Organisation and the US Food and Drug Administration.”

Some specialists, including infectious diseases physicians, dermatologists and gastroenterologists, will still be able to prescribe the drug for unapproved conditions if they believe it to be appropriate for a particular patient.

The TGA said it was concerned people who may have Covid-19 would take the drug rather than get treated, or some might take it instead of getting vaccinated.

The regulator was also concerned people taking advice on how to administer ivermectin could lead to people using it in unsafe doses.

“The doses of ivermectin that are being advocated for use in unreliable social media posts and other sources for Covid-19 are significantly higher than those approved and found safe for scabies or parasite treatment,” it said.

“These higher doses can be associated with serious adverse effects, including severe nausea, vomiting, dizziness, neurological effects such as dizziness, seizures and coma.”

The TGA and National Covid-19 Clinicial Evidence Taskforce has strongly argued against ivermectin use in Australia to treat Covid-19 outside clinical trials, stating “there remains significant uncertainty whether ivermectin is more effective and safer than standard care in treating patients with Covid-19”.

Despite this, the drug has gained traction in some anti-vaccination communities and rightwing media. This has flowed into increasing demand in Australia as a treatment for Covid.

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