A growing number of people in Japan are taking imported COVID-19 drugs that are not permitted for use in the country, prompting public health officials to issue a warning against taking such drugs.
The side effects of unauthorized drugs may not be compensated for by the government, the health ministry warned.
A woman in her 40s from Shizuoka Prefecture is among those who imported such drugs. She took ivermectin, an anti-parasitic drug produced by an Indian company that is not approved for the treatment of COVID-19 in Japan.
She ordered the drug through an import agent after doing her own research, including reading articles available from the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.
“I bought it because I thought I should take it, at my own risk, to avoid infection,” she said.
The Japanese Kitasato Institute has conducted a clinical trial to determine the effectiveness of ivermectin in the treatment of COVID-19.
There are several unauthorized drugs, including ivermectin, which have been ordered by people in Japan to protect against the coronavirus, an import agent said.
This is apparently because the use of remdesivir and dexamethasone, drugs approved by Japanese regulators to treat COVID-19, require a prescription.
“Many customers who order drugs to treat COVID-19 are those in their 50s and 60s, who are at a higher risk of developing severe symptoms,” the agent said.
Hydroxychloroquine, a malaria drug once touted by former US President Donald Trump as a treatment for COVID-19, and the anti-HIV treatment, lopinavir, were previously popular among people seeking treatment. But the World Health Organization has found no evidence that they can be used to treat COVID-19.
Some foreign-based import agents are touting unauthorized drugs as COVID-19 treatments in violation of the Pharmaceuticals and Medical Devices Act, which prohibits the advertising of such drugs.
“Generally speaking, no one guarantees what’s inside imported drugs. It is extremely dangerous to take them on your own, ”said an official with the Ministry’s Tuberculosis and Infectious Disease Control Division.
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