Interest in ivermectin to cure viral infections surged late last year despite it being trialled unsuccessfully to treat COVID-19. Unfortunately, there are still people looking for ways to procure ivermectin and take them for unapproved purposes.
This article will therefore aim to explain:
- What is ivermectin
- Whether it is legal to take ivermectin and under which circumstances
- Whether you can procure ivermectin without a doctor’s prescription, and the side effects of taking it for unapproved purposes
- The penalties for trying to illegally import and supply ivermectin in Singapore
What is Ivermectin?
Ivermectin is medication that is typically prescribed to treat parasitic diseases.
There are two types of ivermectin, one meant to treat humans, and another that is safe for treatment only in animals. In humans, ivermectin may treat two kinds of infections caused by parasitic worms, namely strongyloidiasis and onchocerciasis.
While ivermectin has been trialled as a potential COVID-19 treatment, it has not been proven effective in treating or preventing COVID-19. Ivermectin is not an anti-viral medicine, so it cannot be used to fight viruses (such as the SARS-CoV-2 virus that causes the COVID-19 disease). Neither has ivermectin been approved by the Health Sciences Authority (HSA) for treating or preventing COVID-19 in Singapore.
Is It Legal to Take Ivermectin in Singapore?
Yes, it is legal to take ivermectin, provided that you have been prescribed it by a doctor and only for the treatment of parasitic worm infections.
Can You Try to Procure Ivermectin Without a Doctor’s Prescription?
It is recommended that you do not attempt to procure ivermectin without a doctor’s prescription. If you are doing so for the purposes of self-medication or protection against COVID-19, you may be putting your health at risk.
You may suffer from side effects such as vomiting, diarrhoea, stomach pain and liver injury. Ivermectin can also interact with other medication, such as blood thinners, and cause dangerous complications.
At least one person has been hospitalised in Singapore after self-medicating with ivermectin. In October 2021, a 65-year-old grandmother was hospitalised after taking ivermectin. She had been urged to do so by her friends, who strongly believed that the drug could offer protection against COVID-19. However, she became ill a day after taking ivermectin. She suffered from high fever, joint inflammation and vomiting.
Elsewhere in Sydney, an individual who tested positive for COVID-19 was hospitalised after suffering symptoms such as vomiting and diarrhoea due to overdosing on ivermectin.
The ivermectin definitely did not help with her COVID-19 treatment.
Furthermore, when you try to procure ivermectin without a doctor’s prescription, you may inadvertently end up obtaining counterfeit health products as you do not know if the ivermectin you have obtained comes from legitimate sources. A counterfeit health product is one that passes off as a registered health product when in fact it is not. It may also be one that presents false information regarding its manufacturer or origin.
Consumption of counterfeit medicine may cause you to experience unexpected side effects and/or allergic reactions. You may even develop a new medical problem. Surely, it would be best to avoid such risks.
What are the Penalties for Illegal Import and Supply of Ivermectin in Singapore?
There are also legal consequences if you procure ivermectin without a doctor’s prescription for unapproved purposes.
Under the Health Products Act (HPA), it is illegal to do the following:
- Importing and/or supplying ivermectin without a valid importer’s licence and/or a wholesaler’s licence, and/or failing to comply with all conditions of that licence
- Storing ivermectin in premises that are not authorised under the licence or the HPA, or by the HSA (such as in your home)
- Failing to comply with prescribed requirements in the import and/or the wholesale supply of ivermectin
Under the HPA, it is also illegal to import and/or supply ivermectin that is:
- Adulterated, i.e. contains a substance that is not stated on its label, except where the substance is approved by the HSA.;
- Unwholesome, e.g. it is expired, contains prohibited substances or has been manufactured or stored under unsanitary conditions; or
- Tampered with, i.e. has been modified in any way.
The table below summarises the penalties for each possible offence.
|Importing and/or supplying ivermectin without a valid importer’s licence and/or a wholesaler’s licence, and/or failing to comply with all conditions of that licence||Fine of up to $50,000 or imprisonment for up to 2 years, or both.|
|Failing to comply with prescribed requirements in the import and/or the wholesale supply of ivermectin|
|Storing ivermectin in premises that are not authorised under the licence or the HPA, or by the HSA|
|Importing and/or supplying ivermectin that is unwholesome|
|Importing and/or supply ivermectin that is adulterated, counterfeit, or has been tampered with||Fine of up $100,000 or imprisonment for up to 3 years, or both.|
For the offence of importing and/or supplying of ivermectin that is adulterated, counterfeit, unwholesome, or has been tampered with, it is a defence if you can prove that you did not know or could not have reasonably believed/ascertained that the ivermectin was in such a condition. You must have also taken all reasonably expected precautions and due diligence to ensure that the ivermectin was not in such a condition.
The Immigrations and Checkpoints Authority has foiled multiple attempts to illegally import ivermectin into Singapore and has referred the cases to the HSA. Strong enforcement action will be taken against those who illegally import and supply ivermectin in Singapore.
To recap, ivermectin is prescribed to treat parasitic infections and is not an anti-viral drug. It has not been proven effective in treating or preventing COVID-19. It is recommended that you do not attempt to procure ivermectin in Singapore unless it has been prescribed to you by a doctor. Not only will you be putting your health at risk, but you may also face legal consequences for importing or ivermectin illegally.
If you know someone or an organisation that might be illegally selling ivermectin or any medication in general, you can report them to the HSA. You can contact HSA’s Enforcement Branch via the telephone at 68663485 during office hours from Monday to Friday, or email email@example.com.
The best way to protect yourself against COVID-19 is to get vaccinated, adhere to social distancing guidelines and maintain a good standard of hygiene. For more information on COVID-19, including approved vaccines and clinical trial evidence, you may refer to the Ministry of Health’s website.
You may also check out our article on the latest COVID-19 laws in place to prevent the spread of COVID-19 in Singapore.