The Department of Health will start conducting clinical trials for the experimental COVID-19 drug Avigan in selected Philippine hospitals starting on Aug. 10, Undersecretary Maria Rosario Vergeire announced today.
Japan donated almost 200,000 Avigan tablets to the Philippines, which will be used for the clinical trials.
“We have identified the hospital sites where these will be used. We will already start on August 10 for this Avigan trial so just wait [for the results]; the medicines are here,” Vergeire said in English and Filipino during an interview with news program Unang Hirit.
Avigan, an anti-influenza drug, has already been approved by Tokyo’s Food and Drug Administration, which means that it no longer needs to secure the Duterte government’s approval for it to be used in the country, Vergeire said.
“[W]e don’t have to deal with a lot of regulatory processes because it’s been approved [in Japan already],” she said.
Meanwhile, Vergeire tried to soothe public anxiety after the Philippines became the COVID-19 hotspot of Southeast Asia. The country recorded 119,460 COVID-19 cases yesterday, the highest in the region and slightly more than Indonesia, which logged 118,753 to end in second place.
“Each country has its own setting. We have different populations, not the same. And our responses weren’t the same either. In fact, our department announced that our country has the highest testing [rate] in Southeast Asia compared to our neighboring countries. We do not deny that our cases are increasing and we report this every day. We are improving our interventions so that we can manage and accommodate all of our patients in our hospitals,” the government official said.
Vince Dizon, the deputy chief implementer of the Duterte administration’s policy against COVID-19, claimed yesterday that the Philippines conducts the most number of COVID-19 tests in Southeast Asia at 30,000. However, Singapore does 40,000 tests in a day, and as of last month, has collected 177,000 swabs per million population, the highest in Southeast Asia, according to The Straits Times.
Critics have said that the pandemic problem in the Philippines has become worse due to the Duterte government’s lack of comprehensive strategy, poor contact tracing, and the inadequate number of healthcare workers, among other factors. Meanwhile, other Southeast Asian nations appear to have controlled the spread of the coronavirus, such as Thailand, Malaysia, and Vietnam.
This article, Experimental COVID-19 drug Avigan to start PH clinical trials Aug. 10, originally appeared on Coconuts, Asia's leading alternative media company. Want more Coconuts? Sign up for our newsletters!