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Ivermectin trials start, Rody hopes for approval

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The Department of Science and Technology (DOST) said Thursday it will begin clinical trials of several drugs, including the anti-parasite medication ivermectin, in patients with COVID-19 to determine their efficacy in combatting the coronavirus.

Meanwhile, President Rodrigo Duterte said that should clinical trials show that ivermectin is safe and effective against COVID, it may be used for “palliative care” that focuses on providing patients’ relief from pain and other symptoms of a serious illness.

“Even if we use it for palliative, so that you won’t get infected immediately,” Duterte said Wednesday night in a televised address, adding he looks forward to clinical trials showing that the drug works so they could be used by COVID-19 patients in the country.

The clinical trial for ivermectin will start by the end of May and could last for six months, said Science and Technology Secretary Fortunato Dela Pena.

“When they come out, that’s what I’m hoping, it will turn out that way we can use it. So that, I’ll be the first. You can drink it, at least the preventive,” the President said in mixed Filipino and English.

Ivermectin tablets have been approved for treating some worm infestations and for veterinary use in animals for parasites.

Also, Customs agents at the Ninoy Aquino International Airport seized a shipment of ivermectin and other regulated drugs that were smuggled from India.

The shipment containing 20,000 capsules of the antiparasitic drug and other misdeclared medicines, was imported by Finstad Inc. from New Delhi.

The importer described the content of the shipment as “food supplements, multivitamins and multi-mineral capsules”, a clear case of technical smuggling, BOC-NAIA said.

Dela Pena said the government has also approved the clinical trials of a new formulation of methylprednisolone, a steroid, and melatonin, as treatments for COVID-19.

The DOST will likewise start trials of herbal supplement, derived from the native tawa-tawa plant that can fight dengue, and lagundi leaves, while there are ongoing tests using virgin coconut oil for severe COVID-19 patients.

Duterte said he believes that “there has to be some truth” to the effectiveness of Ivermectin because some physicians are willing to risk their integrity to allow its use among their patients.

He admitted he was hoping for a favorable outcome of the studies on Ivermectin as a possible “palliative” or “preventive” drug against the coronavirus.

At present, the FDA has granted at least three hospitals special permits to use Ivermectin for its COVID-19 patients, acknowledging there was some “pressure” to approve it.

Duterte also asked Food and Drug Administration chief Eric Domingo if he knew of “an iota of success” about ivermectin as COVID-19 treatment.

However, Domingo said it would be safe to wait for the completion of the studies to get clearer evidence on the effect of ivermectin, saying that some studies would show benefits while others do not.

He also promised to update the President as soon as the results of the clinical studies on ivermectin use are released.

The medical community is divided as to whether Ivermectin should be given to COVID-19 patients or not but reminded the public that there is a lack of data and evidence on its efficacy.

Prior to the seizure, a Customs examiner placed the shipment under 100 percent physical examination, resulting in the discovery of the drugs.

Customs-NAIA immediately wrote to the office of Food and Drug Administration director Jesusa Joyce Cirunay to comment on the seized medicines.

In her reply, the FDA chief stated that “at present, the drug is under compassionate use in Specialized Institutions authorized by FDA through the issuance of Compassionate Special permit (CSP).”

Director Cirunay added, “In case Ivermectin has been granted authorization, a valid License to Operate (LTO) as Drug Importer and Emergency Use Authorization (EUA) or Certificate of Product Registration (CPR) shall be presented.”

Customs NAIA collector Carmelita Talusan said the bureau under thel eadership of Commissioner Rey Leonardo Guerrero remains committed to expedite the processing and release of COVID-19 vaccines, drugs and other medical supplies.

But she emphasized “Customs will also be vigilant and further strengthen border security and protection efforts to curb all smuggling attempts to import unregistered, undeclared and misdeclared goods without the necessary clearance and permits from FDA.”

Ivermectin has been on the news lately after several doctors, politicians and well-known personalities pushed for its use against the virus claiming of its efficacy and supposed quick healing abilities.

But local officials in Metro Manila said they would wait first for approval by medical experts before using the controversial drug or any other treatment against COVID-19 to ensure the safety of the people.

Taguig City Mayor Lino Edgardo Cayetano said they would only follow the recommendations of medical experts and health officials on the use of any medicine against the deadly coronavirus disease.

Mayor Vico Sotto of Pasig City urged the people to take expert advice on the use of Ivermectin.

Pasay City Mayor Imelda Rubiano also said the city government was open to the idea using Ivermectin and other alternative treatments against COVID-19 as long as they were certified as safe and approved by FDA.


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