Philippines joins WHO’s clinical trials for COVID-19 cure

Kristine Sabillo, ABS-CBN News

Posted at Apr 02 2020 06:04 PM | Updated as of Apr 02 2020 06:39 PM

Researchers work in a laboratory at the Philippine Genome Center on March 12, 2020.  The center is part of the development of a local test kit for COVID-19 led by the UP-National Institutes of Health in efforts to improve early detection of the virus, expedite the mass production of the kit, and ensure its availability to the public at lower costs. Mark Demayo, ABS-CBN News

MANILA — The Philippine government announced Thursday that it was joining the World Health Organization’s multi-country clinical trials in search for an effective COVID-19 treatment.

“Tayo po ay sasali sa Solidarity Trial na ginagawa ng World Health Organization para sa COVID-19,” said Health Secretary Francisco Duque III during a televised briefing.

(We are joining the Solidarity Trial of the World Health Organization for COVID-19.)

“Ito po ay malawakang pag-aaral kasama ang iba’t ibang bansa para makahanap ng lunas para sa COVID-19,” he explained.

(This is an extensive study conducted by different countries in search for a cure for COVID-19.)

Duque said Philippine Society for Microbiology and Infectious Diseases President Dr. Marissa Alejandria will be representing the Philippines while Health Undersecretary Maria Rosario Vergeire will be serving as the Department of Health (DOH) liaison for WHO.

The so-called “Solidarity Trial” is a rapid global search for drugs that can treat COVID-19, which has so far infected more than 900,000 people worldwide. With more than 47,000 people dead from the disease, WHO and its member countries have been rushing clinical trials in the hopes of finding an off-label drug that can treat the new strain of coronavirus.

Among the countries that have announced their participation in the Solidarity Trial are Argentina, Bahrain, Canada, France, Iran, Norway, South Africa, Spain, Switzerland and Thailand. The WHO said 45 countries will be contributing to the study and more have expressed interest in participating.

Among the drugs that will be included in the trial are (1) remdesivir, (2) lopinavir and ritonavir combined, (3) two drugs plus interferon beta, and (4) chloroquine.

Remdesivir has been used to treat Ebola virus while ritonavir/lopinavir are used for HIV infections. Interferon-beta is a molecule used to regulate inflammation in the body while chloroquine was made to treat malaria.

As of Thursday, there are 2,633 confirmed COVID-19 cases in the Philippines. Of that number, 51 have recovered and 107 have died.

The Philippine Department of Science and Technology is also looking into virgin coconut oil as a treatment for COVID-19.