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The impact of ivermectin use in Zimbabwe

Interview and article by Christine Clark

The use of ivermectin for prophylaxis and treatment of covid-19 in Zimbabwe has resulted in a 10-fold reduction in mortality. IMI interviewed Dr Jackie Stone, a family medicine physician in based in Harare, Zimbabwe to find out more.

Zimbabwe experienced the first wave of covid-19 infections in July 2020 and by early August the numbers were “overwhelming”.

Dr Stone recalls, “It was just pandemonium. We had patients that we couldn’t transfer out…… We had people piling up in the car park dying and it was actually terrible. ……..We had to do what we could to save the lives of these patients”

Ivermectin administration started on 8th August. A colleague who ran a 22-bed hospital in an old-age care home was able to empty the hospital in six days, despite five of the patients being classed as ‘critical’ at the outset. In Dr Stone’s own clinic two critical patients also survived and were discharged with oxygen for use at home. “One of them I really sent home for palliative care, with a very good nurse”.  A few days later she was astonished to be told that in spite of apparently poor blood chemistry – including a D-dimer level of 10,000 – the patient felt well and was walking round the garden.

“From 8th August until 24th December I didn’t lose a patient and if you look at our patient group, 26% of them [had oxygen saturations] of less than 80%”, she said 

Thereafter, information about ivermectin and its effectiveness “spread like wildfire on social media…. and the whole country became aware of ivermectin”, says Dr Stone.

The death rate rose sharply in January and peaked on 25th at 70 deaths per day. Official authorisation for the use of ivermectin was granted on 26th January.  Just one month later, on 26th February, the covid death rate had fallen to zero. Sales figures tell the story clearly. Retailers reported a 35-fold increase in ivermectin sales; distributors noted that whereas sales had amounted to 1057 bottles in January 2020, in January 2021 more than 8500 bottles were sold.  Over the three-month period, December, January and February, 500,000 doses of liquid ivermectin went out.

Dr Jackie Stone holds degrees in medicine and medical biochemistry from the University of Cape Town, South Africa. She has worked in London, Dubai and Australia and holds a Diploma in Aviation Medicine. She now works in family practice in Zimbabwe.

Read and watch the full series on our website or on YouTube.