DOST eyes melatonin as part of COVID-19 treatment
MANILA, Philippines — The Department of Science and Technology (DOST) has allotted P9.8 million to conduct clinical trials on the use of melatonin, taken usually by persons having trouble to sleep, as a supplementary treatment for the new coronavirus disease (COVID-19).
Science Secretary Fortunato dela Peña said the Philippine Council for Health Research and Development had already approved the clinical trials of high-dose melatonin as adjuvant or supplementary treatment for COVID-19.
The clinical trials will be conducted by a team from Manila Doctors Hospital led by Dr. Rafael Castillo, columnist for Health and Wellness section of Inquirer Lifestyle. It will involve 350 patients over a four-month period.
According to Dela Peña, initial studies showed that melatonin had improved the outcome of patients with pneumonia and other “high-risk features.”
“Results of the project are expected to contribute to national and international guidelines on life-saving drugs and therapy that can impact mortality in COVID-19 patients,” Dela Peña said.
He pointed out that melatonin “is a safe, commonly available and affordable supplement.” Each 3 milligram capsule may be bought from pharmacies for less than P20.
Melatonin is a natural hormone produced by the pineal gland of the brain that regulates the body’s sleep-wake cycle.
As a dietary supplement, it is taken to help individuals with jet lag, delayed sleep-wake phase disorder, some sleep disorders in children, and anxiety before and after surgery.
Other countries have started their studies on melatonin as a supplementary treatment with researches showing it can protect against acute lung injury and acute respiratory distress syndrome brought by COVID-19.
In his Lifestyle column (“High-dose melatonin, 3 other drugs seen as effective against COVID-19”; April 14), Castillo said melatonin was among the four drugs they were using as treatment for COVID-19 patients in Manila Doctors Hospital, along with hydroxychloroquine, azithromycin and tocilizumab.
Hydroxychloroquine with azithromycin was for dealing with the virus directly, while tocilizumab and high-dose melatonin were for “[protecting] all the organs of the body especially the lungs from the lethal effects of COVID-19.”
Manila Doctors Hospital was the first hospital to try high-dose melatonin (36 mg to 72 mg per day in four divided doses) for high-risk COVID-19 patients.
Castillo said the COVID-19 patients with adult respiratory distress syndrome all survived after their treatment with melatonin.
In a study by Rui Zhang et al. (“COVID-19: Melatonin as a potential adjuvant treatment”) published in March in Life Sciences journal, the doctors said high-dose melatonin helped in the recovery of critical care patients “by reducing vessel permeability, anxiety, sedation use, and improving sleeping quality.”
“There is significant data showing that melatonin limits virus-related diseases and would also likely be beneficial in COVID-19 patients,” it added.
The DOST is also funding the clinical trials for the antiviral properties of virgin coconut oil.
To date, there is still no cure or vaccine for COVID-19 approved by the World Health Organization, but a number of treatments are being developed and tested by different countries all over the world.
In May, the Inter-Agency Task Force on Emerging Infectious Diseases approved recommendations from the DOST to let the country participate in clinical trials for COVID-19 vaccines being developed by Adimmune Corp. and Academia Sinica, both based in Taiwan; and the Chinese Academy of Sciences-Guangzhou Institute of Biomedicine and Health, and SinoPharm-Wuhan Institute of Biological Products and Beijing Institute, both based in China.
The Inquirer Foundation supports our healthcare frontliners and is still accepting cash donations to be deposited at Banco de Oro (BDO) current account #007960018860 or donate through PayMaya using this link .
Subscribe to INQUIRER PLUS to get access to The Philippine Daily Inquirer & other 70+ titles, share up to 5 gadgets, listen to the news, download as early as 4am & share articles on social media. Call 896 6000.