Australia’s medical regulator is investigating Senator Malcolm Roberts for a Facebook post advertising the services of a doctor who prescribes an unproven and unapproved COVID-19 treatment that the senator has repeatedly promoted.
The Therapeutic Goods Administration confirmed to Crikey it is looking into a June 3 Facebook post on the One Nation senator’s page that directed people to contact a doctor to prescribe ivermectin.
“The TGA is assessing the social media posts and will take action where there has been a breach of the advertising rules. We note that the Facebook post has been removed,” it said.
Ivermectin is a drug that has been promoted as curing COVID-19 but has not been approved or proven for this use. It’s frequently promoted by anti-vaccine groups as an alternative to vaccination.
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Roberts’ post advertised the services of Dr Mark Hobart, a known anti-vaccine doctor, to prescribe ivermectin but stopped short of directly linking it to its use as a COVID-19 treatment.
“We’ve had requests from people for locating a doctor who prescribes ivermectin. Dr Mark Hobart in Melbourne does,” the post said, before listing the doctor’s contact details.
It is an offence under the Therapeutic Goods Act 1989 to advertise prescription-only medication without the permission of the TGA. Penalties range from a warning letter to civil or criminal charges.
Roberts has repeatedly extolled the use of ivermectin as a treatment for COVID-19 on social media, in Senate estimates and in media interviews.
In a May 18 interview with 2SM’s Marcus Paul, Roberts said he’d used ivermectin in 2014 after being prescribed it by a doctor for a condition he developed during a trip to India. He questioned whether the generic drug wasn’t being prescribed because pharmaceutical companies aren’t making as much money from it as they are with patented COVID-19 vaccines.
“Why aren’t we using ivermectin when it’s completely safe? It’s got no side effects. It’s killed no one. And it’s also being proven as effective with the virus,” he said.
The government-funded medical information resource NPS MedicineWise lists ivermectin’s side effects including headaches, nausea and joint pain.
“At the moment, publicly available details about these cases and trials are limited or have not been peer-reviewed,” the website said. “So currently there is no clear information that confirms whether ivermectin works as a COVID-19 treatment.”