President Rodrigo Duterte has ordered state researchers to hasten the completion of the studies on the use of anti-parasitic drug Ivermectin as treatment for coronavirus patients.
In his televised briefing on Monday, Duterte stressed the need to swiftly determine the efficacy of Ivermectin, which he called cheap and accessible.
“The earlier the studies are completed, whether or not it has the efficacy to fight Covid-19, is important because it is cheap and available,” he said.
The President also assured state researchers that the government has allocated funds for the study.
Duterte noted that while he cannot say whether Ivermectin should be used to treat Covid-19 patients, “credible” people have testified the drug was efficacious against the novel coronavirus.
“There are a lot of credible people, doctors at that, and many civilians — who swear by their fathers’ grave — that Ivermectin is doing good to their bodies while they are suffering from Covid-19,” he said.
The clinical trials led by the Department of Science and Technology and the Department of Health would start this month, said Eric Domingo, director general of the Food and Drug Administration.
“They said the studies will begin this June, but we will follow it up with them,” Domingo said.
Duterte has personally ordered the government to hold clinical trials for the use of controversial drug Ivermectin to treat coronavirus patients last April.
His order overturned the previous stance of health experts that a local trial was not needed since over 40 global studies on the drug’s efficacy and safety for Covid-19 patients were being conducted so far.
A doctor from the Philippine General Hospital was chosen to lead the clinical trials, which may run for up to eight months in at least six quarantine centers near the state-run hospital.
The clinical trials would note how Ivermectin reduces symptoms or length of hospital admission among trial participants compared to other treatments being used.
At least six hospitals have so far received special permits to use Ivermectin for select Covid-19 patients. The permit was not a license for commercial use and large-scale distribution nor an FDA’s endorsement on the drug’s safety and efficacy.
The World Health Organization, the United States FDA, the European Medicine Agency, and even Ivermectin manufacturer Merck all said there is lack of data and evidence on its efficacy and benefits for Covid-19 prevention and treatment.
Health experts have also expressed concern over the drug’s risks and potential side effects such as hypotension or low blood pressure, allergic reactions, seizures, coma, and even death.