ICA foils five attempts to illegally import 23,100 ivermectin tablets in past month

ICA officers stopped the illegal importation of 23,100 ivermectin tablets between Sept 10 and Oct 6. PHOTOS: ICA

SINGAPORE - Five attempts to illegally import an anti-parasitic drug that has been falsely claimed to offer protection against Covid-19 were foiled at Singapore's borders in the past month.

The Immigration and Checkpoints Authority (ICA) said in a Facebook post on Tuesday (Oct 19) that its officers stopped the illegal importation of 23,100 ivermectin tablets between Sept 10 and Oct 6.

Officers at the Changi Airfreight Centre and Airmail Transit Centre (Air Cargo Command) also detected 2,000 tablets of hydroxychloroquine and 2,048 tablets of mycophenolate mofetil in one of the attempts.

The drugs were hidden in postal parcels and detected when ICA officers noticed anomalies in the scanned images of the parcels.

The buyers had either failed to declare the items or had declared them as healthcare products.

ICA said the importation of ivermectin was not authorised by the Health Sciences Authority (HSA), and that it has referred the cases to HSA for further investigation.

"HSA takes a serious view against those engaged in the illegal import, sale and supply of medicines, including ivermectin, and will take strong enforcement action against such persons," said ICA.

ICA added that it will continue to be on the alert for attempts to illegally import items such as unauthorised medication into Singapore.

Ivermectin came under scrutiny earlier this month, when a 65-year-old retiree fell violently ill and was hospitalised after taking it.

She had done so on the urging of her church friends who allegedly told her that the drug would prevent her from becoming infected with Covid-19.

Her daughter said the retiree had taken four 3mg tablets of ivermectin over two days.

She suffered a 39.3 deg C fever, inflammation on her joints and would "vomit violently" after eating food.

The Ministry of Health said in a Facebook post on Oct 15 that ivermectin is a prescription-only medicine registered only for the treatment of parasitic worm infections.

It is not an anti-viral medication and is not approved by the HSA for the prevention or treatment of Covid-19.

"To date, there is no scientific evidence from properly conducted clinic trials to demonstrate that ivermectin is effective against Covid-19," the ministry added.

It said there have been reports of people requiring hospitalisation after self-medicating with ivermectin.

Side effects can include vomiting, stomach pain, seizures, severe skin rash and liver injury.

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