WHO finds 2 drugs on trial ineffective
MANILA — There are now almost 600 patients in the Philippines enrolled in the World Health Organization’s clinical trials for possible COVID-19 treatments, according to the Department of Health.
The DOH released the information as two of the Solidarity Trial tracks were discontinued because the drugs were deemed ineffective.
Based on DOH data, 576 patients around the country are participating in the trial’s four tracks — 212 receiving local standard care or what is usually offered in local hospitals, 213 taking the antiviral medication remdesivir, 66 taking malaria drug hydroxychloroquine, and 85 taking HIV medication lopinavir and ritonavir.
But the last two tracks have already stopped enrollment - hydroxychloroquine last month, and lopinavir and ritonavir just recently.
Health Undersecretary Maria Rosario Vergeire said a recent study involving 11,000 individuals showed that hydroxychloroquine and the combination of lopinavir and ritonavir did not give any additional or positive effect to COVID-19 patients.
“That’s why they decided na itigil na lang because there are also adverse effect or side effects itong mga gamot,” she said.
(That’s why they decided to stop it because there are also adverse effect or side effects from these drugs.)
Vergeire said it will be hard to tell if the local trials of the said drugs were beneficial since there are “many factors affecting the improvement of a patient’s progress.”
“Because the trial hindi natin maitutuloy, hindi na natin masasabi kung talagang yung hydroxychloroquine o ritonavir ang talagang nagbigay ng ganung epekto sa ating pasyente,” she said.
(Because the trial won’t continue, we can’t really say for sure that hydroxychloroquine or ritonavir was the reason the patient improved.)
Patients who are already undergoing the hydroxychloroquine and HIV drugs track will be given the choice if they want to finish the doses left.
Vergeire told reporters on Sunday that when the shipment of interferon arrives, it will be included in the remdesivir track of the Solidarity Trial.
Interferon is one of the drugs included in the WHO clinical trials but it is supposed to be combined with lopinavir and ritonavir.
Vergeire said the only tracks left for the clinical trials will be remdesivir plus interferon, and local standard of care.
Some have called this a setback, especially with COVID-19 cases reaching 11.4 million worldwide.
Nevertheless, Vergeire said the Philippines will be undergoing clinical trials for the anti-flu drug Avigan.
Initial studies have shown the promising effects of Avigan, prompting the Philippines to sign up for the Japan-supported study.
“Ang sa Avigan meron na tayong ethics review. Inaantay na lang mapirmahan. Kapag napirmahan na ang ethics review natin, we will get clearance now from FDA (Food and Drug Administration),” Vergeire said.
(We already have an ethics review for Avigan. We’re just waiting for it to be approved. Once the ethics review is signed, we will get clearance now from FDA.)
She said the clinical trials will start as soon as the FDA gives its approval.
The Philippines has logged 44,254 confirmed COVID-19 cases, as of July 5, including 11,942 recoveries and 1,297 fatalities. Its first case was recorded on Jan. 30 in a Chinese woman who arrived from the Chinese city of Wuhan where the infectious disease was first detected.