Located next to Manila, Quezon City has 3 million people and recently a political representative from the Barangay Matandang Balara declared that the off-label use of ivermectin for the COVID-19 indication has reduced the infection cases in half in less than a month. Mike Defensor, along with Rep. Rolande Marcoleta, organized a community-driven, district-wide ivermectin program to residents in this district, reported the Barangay Health Emergency Response Team, starting on April 30. At that time, there were 138 cases. By May 22, the infections dropped by 57.2% to 59 total cases. By May 24, the cases declined further to just 39 infections. The local political representative argues for mass ivermectin distribution based on these and other observations. Of course, this isn’t a controlled observational study so a number of factors could influence the trend but it’s one that TrialSite’s observing in other places, such as Uttar Pradesh, India, where an assertive, population-wide program that includes ivermectin-based home medicine kits appears to be working in a big way.
By early March 2021, the Philippines experienced the second and far bigger wave of the COVID-19 pandemic. By April 2, 15,928 cases were reported in one day, according to data from Johns Hopkins University. The cases are declining now as 6,454 cases were reported on May 27, according to the Manila Standard.
Ivermectin has been touted by some politicians and physician groups, especially for the poor, but also across socioeconomic lines in this southeast Asian nation of about 111 million people. On May 7, TrialSite reported the ivermectin topic continued to drive controversy as a growing proponent group fought that sufficient data was now available to broadly distribute the drug such as in India while a larger and more influentially represented group took the stand of the World Health Organization (WHO), arguing more clinical trials data is needed.
The controversial president, Rodrigo Duterte, inserted himself into the discussion ordering a large clinical trial to test the generic drug’s efficacy against COVID-19. That 1,200-patient study, sponsored by the Philippines Department of Science and Technology, will start in June and is led by Dr. Aileen David Wang at the University of Philippines, Philippines General Hospital. Nearly $500,000 U.S. has been allocated for the study.
The Philippines FDA doesn’t accept ivermectin use for COVID-19, however, they have issued six compassionate permits for various hospitals requesting the drug for COVID-19 patients. Also of note, the Philippines FDA did recently approve a company’s application to register ivermectin as an antiparasitic drug.
Real World Wonders or Happenstance?
In the meantime, back in Barangay Matandang Balara, Quezon City, the politician Defensor went on the record as to his opinion on the drug, declaring, “We could save many lives with the use of this wonder drug.” Based on the results of this local public health effort thus far, he declared, “The significant decline is a tremendous achievement in the fight against COVID-19 and further bolsters our appeal to undertake mass distribution of ivermectin to our people.”
He also noted that the decrease in COVID-19 cases in the particular area is markedly higher than the broader district which he argues provides some evidence of the effect of the effort. Defensor urged that the national government accelerate the ivermectin clinical trial ordered by the president.