A medical expert from OCTA Research Team questioned on Friday the suggestion made by a group of doctors and concerned citizens to use anti-viral drug hydroxychloroquine (HCQ) as prophylaxis to prevent coronavirus disease (COVID-19) infection.
Citing studies from different health journals and the World Health Organization (WHO), Dr. Michael Tee said that there is no evidence so far that HCQ is safe or effective for patients experiencing symptoms of COVID-19.
“Hindi natin alam kung pwedeng ibigay iyan as prophylaxis kasi walang ebidensya. On whether you can use it for treatment, mabibigay mo ba iyan kung nagkasakit na ang pasyente? Dahil mayroong mga ebidensya na nagsasabing hindi ito effective,” Tee said in an interview. (We do not know if that can be given as prophylaxis because there is no evidence yet. On whether you can use it for treatment, can you give it if the patient is already sick? Because there is evidence saying that it is not effective.)
Tee said hydroxychloroquine is safe but only for patients who actually need it for the treatment of malaria, lupus, or rheumatoid arthritis.
In a unity statement earlier issued by the Concerned Doctors and Citizens of the Philippines (CDCph), it recommended the use of HCQ as an early treatment against the disease, adding that it is safe if given in correct dosage upon consultation with doctors.
The WHO has suspended twice the clinical trial of the HCQ to treat COVID-19 patients due to safety concerns and following interim trial results that it “produced little or no reduction in the mortality of hospitalized COVID-19 patients when compared to standard care.”
Tee, a professor at the University of the Philippines College of Medicine, said giving HCQ as treatment for COVID-19 patients, along with other drugs, might only result in complications.
“Kung ibibigay mo iyan sa pasyenteng may COVID-19 at sasamahan pa ng gamot na may kaparehong side effect, one plus one equals three ‘yan. Maaaring magkaroon ng complications ang mga pasyente. Kaya hindi rin natin pwedeng sabihin na ibibigay natin ito sa lahat para ma-prevent ang pagkakaroon ng COVID,” he said. (If you give that to a COVID-19 patient with another drug with the same side effects, that is one plus one equals three. Patients may have complications. So we cannot say that we can give it to everyone to prevent contracting COVID.)
As vaccine trials are still ongoing around the world, Tee urged the public to strictly observe safety and health protocols such as maintaining physical distancing and the proper wearing of face masks and face shields to further curb the transmission of the virus.
“We are improving as a society in our response [against the virus]. Mas marami na ngayon ang gumagamit ng face mask, halos lahat na tayo. Mas marami na rin ang mga Pilipino na naniniwalang dapat na nating seryosohin ang pandemic na ito,” he added. (More and more people are now using face masks, almost all of us. More and more Filipinos believe that we should take this pandemic seriously.)