Black market drugs have been a major threat to public health and since the beginning of the covid-19 pandemic, this hasn’t changed. In the early stages of the pandemic when vaccines and other antivirals were being tested in clinical trials, there was a demand for effective covid treatments. This provided an opportunity for criminals and illegal businesses to make a profit by selling purported treatments at an extortionate price.
One of the first sensationalised treatments for covid was ivermectin. Ivermectin is an antiparasitic drug which is used to treat various parasitic infections in animals and humans. However, currently, ivermectin is not licensed for the treatment of covid-19 and the Medicines and Health products Regulatory Authority (MHRA) states that ivermectin may only be taken for the treatment of covid-19 by those participating in closely supervised and highly regulated clinical trials.
Health organisations around the world, including the World Health Organisation (WHO), U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) and the MHRA have discouraged people from self-prescribing and illegally purchasing ivermectin. Ivermectin brought through these unregulated supply chains may be of a veterinary specification not intended for human use or maybe an entirely different falsified medicine. High concentrations of ivermectin are very dangerous, and unfortunately, there have been cases throughout the pandemic in which self-prescription of ivermectin has been fatal.
Even after the rule out of the UK’s covid vaccination programme, there is still a demand for black market covid treatments. Another drug which has found popularity on the black market is molnupiravir. Molnupiravir (Lagevrio) is an antiviral which was licensed by the MHRA for the treatment of COVID-19 at the end of 2021. However, molnupiravir is only given to patients eligible, and these patients must have had a covid 19 positive test and symptoms in the last 5 days as well as be in a high-risk group. Some patients outside of this eligibility have turned to the black market to obtain this antiviral drug.
Much like obtaining any black market drug, people purchasing molnupiravir illegally and without regulation put themselves at risk. Not only is there the issue of product falsification, but self-prescription of these medicines means that a doctor cannot control the dosage of the medicine or advise the patient on any potential side effects and risks. For example, antiviral has not been proven safe for pregnant women, so it is strongly advised that contraception is taken during the antiviral treatment to prevent an increased risk of birth defects.
For more information in relation to this post, please follow the links below:
Ivermectin buyers clubs
First oral antiviral for COVID-19, Lagevrio (molnupiravir), approved by the MHRA
Who can and cannot take molnupiravir