By Analou De Vera
The Japanese government will provide the anti-flu drug Avigan to at least 100 coronavirus disease (COVID-19) patients in the Philippines as part of the latter’s upcoming conduct of clinical trials for treating the dreaded illness, the Department of Health (DOH) said on Wednesday.
“Patuloy ang pakikipag-ugnayan natin sa Japan para dito sa supply of this drug which is Avigan–na ipapadala nila. Nakapagbigay na sila ng go-signal para dito. We are expecting this in the coming days,” said Health Undersecretary Maria Rosario Vergeire during the ‘Laging Handa’ press briefing.
[We have continuous coordination with Japan for the supply of this drug Avigan – which they will send. They have already issued a go-signal for it. We are expecting this in the coming days.]
Vergeire said that they are now in the process of crafting the guidelines for the clinical trials, adding that informed consent of COVID-19 patients “will be there.”
“So, pipili tayo ng mga ospital na isasali natin dito sa trial na ito. At doon sa mga ospital na iyon, magkakaroon tayo ng protocol kung paano natin pipiliin ang mga pasyente,” she said.
[So, we will choose the hospitals that will be participating in this trial. And in those hospitals, we will have protocols on how we will choose the patients.]
Stem cell treatment
The Health official also said that the DOH is open to try the stem cell treatment for COVID-19 patients, which is now being investigated in the United Arab Emirates (UAE).
“Lahat ng ating nakikitang mga bagong teknolohiya or innovations in other countries kapag nakikita nila based on their experience and observation at nagiging beneficial sa kanilang population…. bukas ang ating gobyerno para subukan,” said Vergeire.
[All the new technologies or innovations in other countries, which they observed beneficial to their population…our government is open to try it.]
“Ngunit kailangan lamang dumaan sa masusing pag-aaral. Kailangan ng siyensya para masabi natin kung ito ay magiging ligtas at katanggap-tanggap para sa ating mga kababayan,” she added.
[But it needs to go through a thorough study. Science needs to be able to tell if it will be safe and acceptable for our people.]
To note, it was reported that researchers in UAE observed “promising results” using the stem cell treatment against the COVID-19, which was tried on 73 patients.
In a related development, a Filipino health expert reminded the public that the development of a vaccine for COVID-19 is a lengthy process.
Philippine Foundation for Vaccination Executive Director Dr. Lulu Bravo reiterated that vaccine development “needs a lot of years to become really safe.”
“There are more than a hundred companies and research sites that are racing against time to do this. And definitely, if you do this–shorten the period of vaccine development– it will entail a lot of vaccine safety questions,” Bravo told reporters during a virtual briefing on Wednesday.
“I’m afraid that if they do it very rapidly, there will be anti-vaccine people who will start criticizing it, who will start saying this and that about the vaccine because it has not been tested appropriately and adequately,” she added.
“In fact you know for Dengvaxia, we did have more than 10 years of development of that vaccine before it was available commercially. And what did the others say?,” she furthered.
Bravo said that it takes time for a vaccine to be commercially available.
“For a vaccine to really be commercially available and with very adequate protective mechanisms in place—meaning they have tested it for safety and efficacy or effectiveness also— it will take at least five years from the time that you start clinical trials,” she said.#