Desperate times call for desperate measures. And the worsening public health crisis has intensified the desperation felt by many Filipinos.
Thus, leaders of the country’s top business and industry groups, including doctors’ and other professional organizations, have issued a frantic appeal to President Rodrigo Duterte and Congress leaders to make accessible the drug Ivermectin that is highly touted to be effective against the coronavirus.
In a letter signed on March 31, 2021, the multi-sectoral leaders pleaded with President Duterte, Senate President Vicente Sotto III, and Speaker Lord Allan Velasco “to give serious, urgent and immediate attention to Ivermectin as an inexpensive drug to prevent and treat COVID-19 during this public health crisis.”
Among the signatories of the letter is Dr. Benigno A. Agbayani Jr., president of the Concerned Doctors and Citizens of the Philippines (CDC Philippines), a leading advocate for the use of Ivermectin against COVID-19.
“22 percent of the world is already using Ivermectin to successfully fight COVID-19,” CDC Philippines said. “In India, South Africa and many Latin American countries, Ivermectin is widely used as a COVID-19 drug.”
“Multiple studies and meta-analyses confirm the effectiveness of Ivermectin, a safe oral drug used for over 40 years for other illnesses in humans,” CDC Philippines explained.
Excerpts from the letter citing the urgency of making Ivermectin widely accessible in the country are as follows:
“We are in a severe public health emergency. Our people are dying in big numbers on a daily basis and our hospitals can no longer accommodate those who are getting sick of the virus. The number of cases is growing bigger and bigger. Our people are desperate for a preventive and curative drug against COVID-19.
“There are well-founded reasons to believe that Ivermectin, repurposed as a human-grade drug to prevent and treat COVID-19 cases, will do much good based on widespread testimonials and studies made on Ivermectin.”
Other signatories of the letter are Sergio R Ortiz-Luis Jr, president, Employers Confederation of the Philippines; Amb. Benedicto V. Yujuico, president, Philippine Chamber of Commerce and Industry; Jose Luis U. Yulo Jr, president, Chamber of Commerce of the Philippine Islands; Henry Lim Bon Liong, president, Federation of Filipino-Chinese Chambers of Commerce and Industry; Leonardo Q. Montemayor, chairman, Federation of Free Farmers; Dr. Jesus Lim Arranza, chairman, Federation of Philippine Industries Inc.; Atty. Rico V. Domingo, president, Philippine Bar Association; and Alberto D. Lina, president of Federation of Philippine Industries Inc.
“Concretely, we respectfully request the President to direct the Food and Drug Administration (FDA), Department of Health (DOH), and the Department of Science and Technology (DOST) to: 1) Pro-actively look into the credible testimonials of a substantial number of Filipinos, including well-known members of Philippine society, and on the studies of several local and foreign medical researchers on the efficacy and safety of Ivermectin in preventing and treating COVID-19 cases; and 2) Issue the appropriate permit or authority to persons, natural or artificial, to manufacture, compound, import, distribute and sell Ivermectin,” they said.
The letter also asked Congress to “pass the appropriate legislation or resolution to expedite the availability of and easy access to Ivermectin by the masses of our people.”
Aside from Ivermectin’s safety and efficacy, the letter also pointed to its low cost.
“Remdesivir, the current drug being used to treat COVID-19 – infected patients, costs around P28,000 per vial and must be administered twice daily until the patient is discharged. This drug is beyond the means of the average Filipino, most especially the poor,” the letter explained.
“Ivermectin, on the other hand, costs only around P35, has been sold over-the-counter for 40 years, and is generally administered daily for three days, which means a person only needs to spend a little over P100 for the entire treatment. The preventive dose is only once every two weeks.”
The letter concluded with the emergency action needed: “With the sufficient vaccine supply against COVID-19 still forthcoming, the present health crisis calls for urgent and decisive action by government to provide a low-cost preventive and curative drug easily accessible to our people.
“We strongly believe that many more Filipinos, especially the poor, can be saved from COVID-19 infection and death if Ivermectin is made immediately available to our people as prescribed by medical doctors without further delay and threats of administrative and criminal sanctions.
“While FDA has declared that it can issue compassionate special permit for the use of human grade repurposed Ivermectin, the procedures are cumbersome and not conducive to a wider use of the drug, not to mention the fee that has to be paid by patient or institution which is more than the cost of the drug itself.
“With the immediate availability of Ivermectin in the country, the health of the Filipinos will be protected and promoted, and the economy of the country will be restored and enhanced. Dear leaders of our country, we appeal to you, please act on our request.”
As legal basis, the letter cited the following policies declared in the 1987 Constitution: 1) Protection and promotion of the right to health of the people (Sec.15, Article II); 2) Respect for the role of independent people’s organizations to enable the people to pursue and protect their legitimate and collective interests and aspirations (Sec.15, Article XIII); and 3) The right of the people and their organizations to effective and reasonable participation at all levels of social, political and economic decision-making.
The letter’s other signatories include Atty. Ferdinand A. Nague, president, Maritime Law Association of the Philippines; Fernando L. Martinez, Phd, president, PCCI, Pasig City; Cory Quirino, chairman, Volunteers Against Crime and Corruption; Nelson Celis, president, Philippine Computer Society, Fellow, Center for People Empowerment in Governance; Antonio Sarmiento Jr., president, Philippine Federation of Pest Management Operators Associations Inc.; Greg Atienza, executive director, SOULPh; Luis Marcos Laurel, president, Class 1986 Ateneo Law School; and Ofelia Odilao-Bisnar SVP, ICMA UP Chapter, trustee, Food for Hungry Minds Inc., treasurer (past chair) AAAIM; Fernando L. Martinez, president, Rotary Club Makati Central; Noel C. Soriano, president, IPPPCA, Atty. Augustus Caesar Sangco, president, San Beda Law School, Ed Garma, president, Rotary Club of Makati Central; Chris Carreon, Founding Chairman, Spirit of EDSA Foundation; and Patricia Sison, president, Family Life and Wellness Institute.
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