Philippines to conduct clinical trials on ivermectin as COVID-19 treatment
MANILA, Philippines — The Philippines is set to conduct clinical trials to determine whether the controversial anti-parasitic drug ivermectin can be used to treat COVID-19 patients, Science and Technology Secretary Fortunato dela Peña said Monday during the pre-recorded briefing of President Rodrigo Duterte.
This developed a week after the Department of Science and Technology (DOST) said it saw no need for conducting such a clinical trial.
According to Dela Peña, ivermectin was discussed on April 15 during President Rodrigo Duterte’s meeting with COVID-19 task force officials, and on April 17, he and Health Secretary Duque III discussed potential experts to conduct the clinical trial.
The DOST chief said the clinical trials would be led by Dr. Aileen Wang of the University of the Philippines-Manila and would be conducted in quarantine centers near the Philippine General Hospital (PGH).
Funds from the Department of Health budget have been allocated for the trials.
“Hopefully, when the trial is finished, we will have more reliable estimates on the effect of ivermectin as an anti-viral agent that can reduce virus shedding in mild and moderate COVID-19 patients, De la Peña said in Filipino.
The drug, Dela Peña said, would be compared with other standards of care.
He said the clinical trials would take at least six months to complete, but it could be finished quicker if many people would volunteer as subjects.
The clinical trials will also compare how ivermectin reduces symptoms and the length of hospital stay of trial participants compared to other treatments being used.
The government’s decision comes after intense lobbying, with some members of the House of Representatives participating, in support of ivermectin as a potential as a COVID-19 treatment.
The use of ivermectin to treat COVID-19 has recently sparked debate among Filipino medical practitioners. Ivermectin is an anti-parasitic drug currently commercially available only in veterinary grade in the country.
Some physicians have vouched for its efficacy, urging the government to make it available to COVID-19 patients unable to gain entry to overcrowded hospitals.
The World Health Organization (WHO) earlier said prescribing ivermectin without statistically significant evidence of its efficacy against COVID-19 is “harmful” since it would give “false confidence” to the public.
The Food and Drug Administration (FDA) earlier said only topical creams containing ivermectin used for treating head lice and rosacea were commercially available in the Philippines.
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