The Department of Health (DOH) will stop administering the anti-HIV drugs lopinavir and ritonavir to hospitalized COVID-19 patients after the World Health Organization (WHO) said it would discontinue its trials with them, along with the anti-malaria drug hydroxychloroquine after they failed to reduce mortality rate.
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“Based on the recent evidence and recommendations from our experts,we will be stopping the use of lopinavir and ritonavir among hospitalized patients,” Health Undersecretary Maria Rosario Vergeire told reporters Sunday.
“We have already discontinued hydroxychloroquine early on when the evidence for this came out,” she added.
Patients who are already on the treatment would have the option to stop, she said.
“We will have remdesivir plus interferon as the new regimen versus remdesivir alone versus interferon alone and standard of care once shipment of interferon arrives,” she said.
Under the WHO’s Solidarity Trial, in which the Philippines is participating, four drugs were being eyed as treatment for COVID-19: the anti-malaria drug hydroxychloroquine, remdesivir, the anti-HIV drugs lopinavir and ritonavir or a combination of the two, and interferon.
In May, the DOH temporarily stopped administering hydroxychloroquine to patients as a treatment for coronavirus disease after WHO halted its use due to evidence that people taking the drug were at higher risk of incurring heart problems, or even of death.
In June, the WHO altogether halted the trials for hydroxychloroquine after finding that it did not reduce the mortality rate among COVID-19 patients.
On Thursday, Vergeire said antiviral drug remdesivir has so far shown “positive effects” on some patients taking it. However, such findings are not conclusive, she said.
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Malacañang on Saturday expressed optimism that a study on the convalescent plasma transfusion as a treatment for COVID-19 would yield positive results.
Presidential Spokesperson Harry Roque issued the statement Saturday night, after the government-funded study began on Wednesday.
The clinical study will be undertaken by the University of the Philippines-Philippine General Hospital (UP-PGH).
Convalescent plasma is taken from the blood of COVID-19 patients who have recovered from the disease.
Roque said the UP-PGH study is funded by the Department of Science and Technology (DOST).
As of Saturday, the Philippines reported 41,830 confirmed Covid-19 cases, with 11,453 recoveries and 1,290 deaths.
Michael Ryan, executive director of World Health Organization’s health emergencies program, earlier said the use of convalescent plasma is a valid approach in treating infectious diseases.
Ryan said this was done in previous outbreaks such as the H1N1 influenza virus pandemic, 2003 SARS-CoV-1 epidemic, and the 2012 MERS-CoV epidemic.
The Philippines started the call for blood donations from covid-19 survivors in April.
The study on the convalescent plasma transfusion will run for 12 months, the DOST said.
Meanwhile, the Chinese General Hospital and Medical Center (CGHMC) said they have reached full capacity in their COVID wards.
“Our medical center COVID wards are running at full capacity with more severe cases than those seen last March. This has a palpable impact on our resident and nursing manpower with deleterious effects on their physical and mental health and residency training,” the hospital's medical director, Dr. Samuyel D. Ang and president, James G. Dy said in a letter to their consultants.
“While we gladly accept your admissions, we would prefer that you refer your COVID patients to other institutions. At the ER level, the suspect patients are requested a rapid PCR test as negative patients will be admitted while COVID positive patients will be referred to the appropriate institutions,” said the letter. With PNA