Pofma may be used against those who spread Covid-19 falsehoods: Ong Ye Kung

Pofma may be used against those who say ivermectin is a safe and effective treatment for Covid-19, said Health Minister Ong Ye Kung.
Pofma may be used against those who say ivermectin is a safe and effective treatment for Covid-19, said Health Minister Ong Ye Kung.PHOTO: AFP

SINGAPORE - The Ministry of Health (MOH) is looking into using the Protection from Online Falsehoods and Manipulation Act (Pofma) on those who spread falsehoods about Covid-19 treatment.

This includes those who say that anti-parasitic drug ivermectin is a safe and effective treatment for the disease, Health Minister Ong Ye Kung said on Wednesday (Oct 20) during a press conference by the multi-ministry task force tackling Covid-19 here.

"We are certainly looking into it," Mr Ong said. "And just to be clear, in MOH, the medical professionals are very clear that ivermectin is not suitable for the treatment of Covid-19."

The dosages of ivermectin used in laboratory settings to kill the virus are too high for humans to safely use, he added.

Ivermectin is a prescription-only drug that is used to treat parasitic worm infections. While it has been studied as a potential treatment for Covid-19, there is no strong scientific evidence that it works.

It is not an antiviral medication and is not approved by the Health Sciences Authority for the prevention or treatment of Covid-19.

Even pharmaceutical company Merck, which manufactures ivermectin, has said there is insufficient evidence that the drug can treat Covid-19 and that most studies show “a concerning lack of safety data”.

Side effects of ivermectin include vomiting, stomach pain, seizures, severe skin rashes and liver injury.

In early October, a 65-year-old retiree was hospitalised with fever and joint inflammation after she took four 3mg tablets of ivermectin over two days.

But certain websites and chat groups have pushed for self-medication with ivermectin as a way to prevent Covid-19 infection or treat its symptoms.

Last Friday (Oct 15), MOH put up a Facebook post warning against a website known as Truth Warriors, which is run by a group of anonymous individuals and claims to be presenting “the other side of the Covid picture”. 

The site put up articles claiming that ivermectin is safe and effective for Covid-19 treatment.

“Self-medicating with ivermectin can be dangerous to one’s health, and there have been reports of patients requiring hospitalisation after doing so,” MOH said in its post, urging the public to avoid spreading misinformation.

On Tuesday, the Immigration and Checkpoints Authority said it stopped the illegal import of 23,100 ivermectin tablets between Sept 10 and Oct 6.