Why we are not using ivermectin for the treatment of COVID-19

OIA response

29 November 2021

Dear [name and contact details withheld]

Request for information

Thank you for your request dated 12 November 2021 under the Official Information Act 1982 (OIA) for information relating to ivermectin. You requested: 

Under the official information act; please explain to me why we are not using Ivermectin or tell me you will look into it urgently.

I note you have approved an experimental vaccine but [are] not approving cheap drugs which have completed studies.


Approving and funding medicines in New Zealand

Medsafe is the authority responsible for regulating therapeutic products in New Zealand. A supplier needs Medsafe’s approval to distribute its medicines in New Zealand and it is responsible for initiating the approval process. 

Pharmac is the agency that decides which medicines and related products are funded in New Zealand. We do not approve medicines for use in New Zealand. Generally, before a medicine is funded by Pharmac it needs to be approved by Medsafe. 

Risks of importing or prescribing ivermectin for prevention or treatment of COVID-19

“When ingested in high doses, ivermectin can have a serious effect on humans, with symptoms including low blood pressure, worsening asthma, severe autoimmune disorders, seizures and liver damage.” (Medsafe, 2021) 

Please see the Medsafe website for their safety communication of 6 September 2021 titled Risks of importing or prescribing ivermectin for prevention or treatment of COVID-19.(external link) 

Medsafe has not approved ivermectin for treating COVID-19. The manufacturer of ivermectin (Merck) released a statement on 4 February 2021(external link) noting that there is “no meaningful evidence for clinical activity or clinical efficacy in patients with COVID-19 disease”. To date, Merck has not released an updated statement on ivermectin use during the COVID-19 pandemic. 

Please also see our recent OIA request responses regarding the use of ivermectin for the treatment of COIVD-19:

Vaccines for COVID-19

The Ministry of Health is responsible for the COVID-19 vaccine rollout. This means that the Ministry is responsible for deciding which COVID-19 vaccines to fund and procuring the vaccines for New Zealand. Details about the vaccine strategy are available on the Ministry's website(external link)

The Ministry has established several Technical Advisory Groups (TAGs) to provide advice for COVID-19 related matters. See its website for a list of its COVID-19 TAGs(external link)

Medsafe has given provisional consent for the Pfizer-BioNTech COVID-19 vaccine (Comirnaty)(external link) to be used in New Zealand. This consent has been given subject to a number of conditions, as noted on Medsafe’s website.

For more information about vaccines for COVID-19, please contact the Ministry of Health. 

We trust that this information answers your queries. We are making our information more freely available, so we now publish selected OIA responses (excluding personal details) on our website. Please get in touch with us if you have any questions about this. 

Yours sincerely 

Rachel Read
Manager, Policy and Government Services