As DOH draws flak for remdesivir purchase, demand soars in COVID-19 hotspot India

Published May 9, 2021, 3:53 PM

by Ben Rosario

Two senior administration congressmen on Sunday, May 9, issued separate statements chiding the Department of Health for its continued inaction against the use of remdesivir in treating patients suffering from the novel coronavirus disease (COVID-19).

But while Deputy Speaker and Buhay Partylist Rep. Lito Atienza and Anakalusugan Rep. Michael Defensor took moves to question DOH and Filipino doctors prescribing remdesivir, demand for the injectable anti-viral drug soared in India which has become the country in the world worst-hit by the pandemic.

This, despite the issuance by the World Health Organization of a “conditional recommendation” against remdesivir for showing “less certain’ evidence of its benefits for COVID-19 treatment.

The WHO issued the advisory almost a month after the National Institute of Health (NIH) of the United States reported that its studies indicated that remdesivir “accelerated recovery for hospitalized patients with severe COVID-19” Funded by the US National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases (NIAID), the final report of the study was released on October 8, 2020.

“The final results showed that the antiviral treatment was beneficial, consistent with the preliminary findings,” the NIH disclosed.

DOH reportedly has yet to decide on the WHO recommendation since it has not banned the use of remdeisivir in treating COVID-19 cases. Instead, the DOH has ordered P1 billion worth of the injectable drug, according to Atienza.

Atienza accused the DOH of “wasteful double standard of promoting a very expensive investigational drug such as remdesivir.” On the other hand, the department has been slow in pursuing other “potential low priced treatments” such as the human grade Ivermectin, he said.

Ivermectin’s efficacy as a COVID-19 treatment has remained unsubstantiated by scientific studies.

Two months ago, WHO stressed that use of Ivermectin to treat COVID-19 patients “is inconclusive.” The international organization said use of the broad spectrum anti-parasitic drug should be limited within clinical trials until more data conclude that it can treat the deadly viral disease.

Meanwhile, Defensor said reiterated his warning that DOH officials may be held legally liable for procuring remdesivir despite the WHO recommendation on its use.