SAGIP Party-list Rep. Rodante Marcoleta and Anakalusugan Party-list Rep. Michael Defensor distributed the controversial ivermectin to senior citizens in Quezon City as a possible "cure" for the coronavirus disease 2019 (Covid-19) but at the same time made them sign waivers that they "voluntarily availed" of and "freely" accepted the anti-parasitic drug.
"That's the standard," Marcoleta said in a text message to The Manila Times. "We have to make sure that the beneficiaries voluntarily availed of the [Ivermectin], and that their consent was freely given."
He added that the "assisting doctors, like the other experts who publicly declared that [Ivermectin] had least and rare side effects, were there to assure the beneficiaries that there [was] nothing to worry [about]."
Defensor made the same statement, saying the waiver was just one of the "standard forms used for all drugs for [Covid-19]."
The lawmakers first launched the "Ivermectin pan-three (pantry)" in Barangay Matandang Balara, which they said was among the high-risk areas.
"Many areas belong to the poorest of the poor who cannot afford the financial burden of hospitalization," they added.
Beneficiaries, primarily vulnerable groups such as senior citizens and the poor, received at least three capsules.
Defensor had said he was willing to go to court if the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) halts the distribution of the drug.
The Department of Health (DoH), meanwhile, had said that proponents of ivermectin and their distributors may face charges.
A number of experts had repeatedly cautioned against the use of ivermectin as a cure for Covid-19. Even World Health Organization (WHO) Country Representative Rabindra Abeyasinghe had warned of the risks of the anti-parasitic drug.
The Quezon City government said it was not inclined to distribute or endorse the use of ivermectin.
Dra. Esperanza Arias, the city's health department chief, expressed hope that Defensor and Marcoleta would accept accountability for any adverse effects their distribution activity may cause the general population in the future.
Arias has advised the public to heed the recommendations of regulatory agencies mandated to review and approve consumer products, including drugs and medicines, for general use.
City officials have asked the DoH and FDA to release a clear stand on the safety and general use of the anti-parasitic drug.
A firm stand by the national regulatory agencies will help set the record straight regarding the legality and efficacy of the drug, including its distribution to the general public, she said.
"We were not given a go signal by the FDA to use ivermectin as prophylaxis or cure against Covid-19 since it's still pending further studies. Hence, we cannot use it nor endorse it," Arias said.
However, Arias clarified that the city government could not stop anyone from distributing the drug since its use against Covid has not been declared illegal as well.