Access to new innovative treatments against COVID-19 should complement a robust vaccination program if our country hopes to win the fight against the virus, health experts said in a recent Stratbase ADRi virtual town hall discussion.
“We cannot wait until this pandemic is completely over in order to revive the economy,” said Prof. Dindo Manhit, Stratbase ADRi President, during the forum entitled “Trends in Innovative Treatments for COVID-19.”
Because of the pace of vaccination and the emergence of the Delta variant, “we need an innovative, accelerated, cross-sectoral and cost-effective approach to healthcare if we are to confront this lingering crisis decisively,” Manhit said.
On October 1, the drug Ronapreve (Casirivimab + Imdevimab), was granted Emergency Use Authorization by the Food and Drug Administration.
Dr. Evan Glen Vista, Internal Medicine Specialist at St. Luke’s Medical Center said that it is a monoclonal-antibody just like tocilizumab. This drug, however, was developed specifically for the virus and is available as an infusion to prevent severe COVID.
Dr. Rontgene Solante, chief of the Adult Infectious Diseases and Tropical Medicine Unit at San Lazaro Hospital, said monoclonal antibodies like Ronapreve act like vaccines in blocking the virus from entering the cells.
“The earlier you catch patients while they have a mild to moderate infection, [the greater your chance of preventing them from becoming] high risk, severe and critical cases,” Solante said.
Universal Health Care Watch co-convenor Alvin Manalansan said: “We must work together to remove the barriers to these new treatments specifically developed for COVID 19. More government funding should be allocated to give access to these innovative treatments that have EUA approvals in the developed countries and are proven to prevent costly hospitalization. This can potentially save government resources so that more COVID 19 patients may benefit.”
“We need to bridge what has become a COVID 19 treatment accessibility divide, through a unified, patient-centered approach,” Manalansan added.
Other speakers in the forum voiced their opinion on the way the government is handling the health and economic crisis and proposed ways to improve pandemic management.
Former Health Secretary Esperanza Cabral lamented the Philippines’ dismal ranking in surveys by Bloomberg and Nikkei Asia that measured countries’ resilience and response to the pandemic.
Dr. Michael Tee, Vice-Chancellor for Planning & Development of the University of the Philippines – Manila, stressed the need for data-driven decision making and urged policymakers to segment the population into vaccinated and unvaccinated individuals and look into the infection, hospitalization and death rate of patients in both groups.
Hazel Docuyanan, Chief Pharmacy Officer of the Makati Medical Center, emphasized the need to understand the disease, discover new treatment, or repurpose existing drugs as we look into treatment options and the barriers to these treatments.
Dr. Benjie Co, Pediatrics and Clinical Pharmacology Specialist at Asian Hospital and Medical Center, advised looking at strategic priorities and proposed three steps: (1) Containing the spread of the pandemic by decreasing morbidity and mortality, (2) decreasing the deterioration of human assets, rights, social cohesion and livelihoods, and (3) protecting, assisting and advocating for people and communities vulnerable during the pandemic.
“Endemic COVID-19 means we will find a new tolerable way to live with this virus. It will feel strange at first, then it will not,” Co said.