Singapore mulls using POFMA on websites advising ivermectin as COVID cure

This picture shows the tablets of Ivermectin drugs in Tehatta, West Benga, India on 19 May on 2021. Some Indian state governments have plans to dose their populations with the anti-parasitic drug ivermectin to protect against severe COVID-19 infections as their hospitals are overrun with patients in critical condition. But, the World Health Organization (WHO) has warned against the use of this medicine in treating COVID-19 patients. (Photo by Soumyabrata Roy/NurPhoto via Getty Images)
Ivermectin tablets. (PHOTO: NurPhoto via Getty Images)

SINGAPORE — Health Minister Ong Ye Kung on Wednesday (20 October) said that authorities are “certainly looking” into invoking Singapore's fake news law against websites that encourage people to consume the antiparasitic drug ivermectin to prevent or cure COVID-19.

Responding to media queries during a doorstop interview, Ong stressed that medical professionals in the Ministry of Health “are very clear that ivermectin is not suitable for the treatment” of the coronavirus disease.

“Whatever it has been used in the lab to kill the COVID virus is that the dosage is too high for humans to use safely,” added the co-chair of the COVID-19 multi-ministry taskforce.

As such, authorities will look into issuing notices under the Protection from Online Falsehoods and Manipulation Act (POFMA) to websites promoting the consumption of the drug.

This comes two weeks after the Health Sciences Authority (HSA) reiterated its call for members of the public to refrain from taking ivermectin for the prevention or treatment of COVID-19.

The advisory was issued shortly after Facebook user Vanessa Koh Wan Ling alleged that her mother had obtained and taken the drug on the advice of fellow parishioners at Church of the Risen Christ.

“Consumers are strongly advised not to self-medicate with ivermectin and to consult their doctor for proper treatment of COVID-19,” said the HSA on 5 October. It had in September issued a similar advisory.

“Self-medicating with ivermectin can be dangerous to your health,” said the HSA, adding that there have been reports of patients requiring hospitalisation after taking the drug, commonly used as a de-wormer for horses.

Side-effects from taking ivermectin can include vomiting, diarrhoea, stomach pain, and neurologic adverse events such as dizziness, seizures, and confusion. Individuals can also suffer from a sudden drop in blood pressure, severe skin rash potentially requiring hospitalisation, and liver injury, such as hepatitis.

The HSA added that it takes a serious view against those engaged in the illegal sale and supply of medicines, including ivermectin, and will take strong enforcement action against such individuals.

If convicted under the Health Products Act, each offender can face up to two years in jail, or be fined up to $50,000, or both.

On Tuesday, the Immigration and Checkpoints Authority (ICA) said that it had foiled five recent attempts at illegally importing ivermectin into Singapore, confiscating 23,100 such tablets in total.

Apart from ivermectin, the ICA also confiscated 2,000 tablets of hydroxychloroquine and 2,048 tablets of mycophenolate mofetil.

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