Metro Manila (CNN Philippines, April 20) — The Department of Science and Technology said the country is preparing to conduct clinical trials for the use of ivermectin against COVID-19.
DOST chief Fortunato dela Peña said this during a televised meeting with President Rodrigo Duterte on Monday.
Dela Peña said Friday last week that he and Health Secretary Francisco Duque III discussed the matter after Duterte raised it in their Thursday meeting. On Saturday, it was agreed that an expert would lead the trials.
Dr. Aileen Wang from the Philippine General Hospital will be spearheading the clinical trials that will involve quarantine centers near the said healthcare facility.
The Heath Department has already allocated funds for the said program, he noted.
It’s an apparent deviation from officials’ earlier pronouncements. The government said on April 10 that it has no plans to conduct such trials to determine efficacy of the anti-parasitic drug against the coronavirus since similar studies are ongoing in other parts of the world.
“Hopefully po ay pag natapos ang trial na iyan ay magkakaroon tayo ng mas reliable estimates ng epekto ng ivermectin bilang isang anti-viral agent na makapagre-reduce ng virus shedding sa mga mild at moderate patients at makikita natin ang epekto ng ivermectin sa hospitalization ng iba,” Dela Peña explained.
Translation: Hopefully after this trial we will have more reliable estimates of the effect of ivermectin as an anti-viral agent that will reduce virus shedding in mild and moderate patients and we will see the effect of ivermectin on hospitalization of others.]
However, he said this could run for six months, depending on the number of volunteers that will join the program.
Earlier, the Food and Drug Administration granted two hospitals special compassionate permits for the use of ivermectin for COVID-19 patients.
This was despite warnings from experts that the drug has unproven efficacy against the disease, and high doses of it could cause brain damage or death.
Apart from the special permit, the regulator only allows the use of oral ivermectin products on animals to prevent heartworm diseases and treat infections due to parasites. Doctors can also prescribe topical ivermectin to treat parasitic infestations such as head lice and other skin conditions for humans.
Trial for other treatments
The Cabinet official also said they have recently approved holding clinical trials in the country to use methylprednisolone on COVID-19 patients.
This corticosteroid hormone is currently used to treat arthritis, blood disorders, and immune system disorders, among others.
The clinical trial for melatonin, a drug most commonly used for insomnia, is also underway at the Manila Doctor’s Hospital.
DOST is also in the process of studying other natural products such as virgin coconut oil, lagundi, and tawa-tawa as therapeutics.
“Marami po tayong sinusubukan. Hindi man bakuna (pero ito) ay makakapagpabilis po sa recovery kung sakali,” dela Peña said.
[Translation: We are looking at many medicines. Even though these are not vaccines, it could help fast track the recovery of patients.]