Avigan clinical trials to start soon, DOH says

ABS-CBN News

Posted at Aug 08 2020 07:54 PM | Updated as of Aug 08 2020 08:14 PM

A pharmacist from Sta. Ana Hospital in Manila on Aug. 8, 2020 shows the anti-flu drug Favipiravir (brand name Avigan) donated by Japan, which will be used to treat severe cases of the novel coronavirus. ABS-CBN News

MANILA - The clinical trials for Avigan will start soon in the Philippines, the Department of Health (DOH) said Saturday, after the country received a supply of the anti-flu drug from Japan.

"We will be starting soon. Inaayos lang ang legal documents so we can finalize arrangements and the trial will start in a couple of weeks," Health Undersecretary Maria Rosario Vergeire told ABS-CBN's Teleradyo.

The DOH earlier identified Sta. Ana Hospital, Dr. Jose N. Rodriguez Memorial Hospital and Quirino Memorial Medical Center in Metro Manila as possible clinical sites for the Japanese-made medication.

The Japanese government on Thursday provided the Philippines with a supply of Avigan as part of its "emergency grant aid to countries severely affected by COVID-19." 

The donation, intended for 100 patients, seeks "to contribute to the advancement of clinical research to contain the COVID-19 pandemic," the Embassy of Japan in Manila had said.

In May, Japan promised to provide the anti-flu medication to the Philippines and 40 other countries for clinical studies on its efficacy as a coronavirus treatment.

The drug, also known as Favipiravir, is developed by a subsidiary of Fujifilm Holdings Corp. Experts, however, have warned that the drug could cause birth defects and couldn’t be administered to expectant mothers.

Status of Remdesivir

During the interview, Vergeire also revealed the government would procure Remdesivir after the World Health Organization (WHO) reported shortage of the anti-viral drug.

The Philippines is part in the United Nation's health agency's solidarity trial with possible treatment approaches to COVID-19, which include the use of Remdesivir, involving some 700 patients.

"Unfortunately, a lot of countries are using Remdesivir. Nagkaroon ng stockout ang WHO that's why they can't provide for us," Vergeire said.

The DOH is in talks with the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) for the purchase of Remdesivir. 

The drug, originally intended to treat Ebola, has shown it can reduce the duration of hospital stays for those fighting COVID-19.

"We sought the necessary clearances so the government can procure. Para kahit hindi dumating 'yung sa WHO na stocks, merong stocks dapat ang gobyerno under the compassionate special permit ng FDA para magamit ng bawat pasyente," Vergeire said.

As of Saturday, the Philippines has recorded 126,885 coronavirus cases, of which 57,559 are considered active cases. The tally includes 2,209 people who succumbed to COVID-19 while 67,117 have recovered from the contagious disease.

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