A senior government official in the Philippines announced the launch of a major clinical trial investigating several drugs including ivermectin, the anti-parasite medication used frequently in the tropics, in patients with COVID-19 in a quest to determine safety and efficacy. While ivermectin has grown in popularity here as an off-label treatment for COVID-19, the majority of world drug regulators and government research bodies believe the existing clinical trial data isn’t sufficient for any emergency use authorization declaration. That’s the same here in the Philippines as the food and drug regulator in this Southeastern Asian nation cautions against use for the SARS-CoV-2 indication due to the lack of evidence. Fortunato de la Pena, the nation’s science and technology minister, declared in a presentation Monday that the ivermectin-focused clinical trial “will give us a more reliable estimate of the effects of ivermectin as an antiviral agent in mild and moderate (COVID-19) patients.”
With over 945,000 COVID-19 cases and more than 16,000 deaths, this country is on the edge as early on its didn’t face that great of a disruption from the pandemic—unlike countries in North and South America and Europe. TrialSite earlier this month reported on the growing problems wrought by the pandemic in the Southeast Asian nation. With a surge of SARS-CoV-2 infections and a vaccination drive totaling 1.3 million, the nation’s leadership faces an uphill battle when factoring in their total population of 108 million. Hence the growing interest in ivermectin and the request of hospitals for access to the drug for compassionate use.
A Range of Investigational Candidates
This large platform-type trial will investigate not only ivermectin but also, according to de la Pena, a novel formulation of the steroid methylprednisolone and melatonin as a treatment for SARS-CoV-2, the virus behind COVID-19. According to a Reuters report, the government also looks into local herbal supplements as a care option. Apparently, this product is derived from a native plant called tawa-tawa used to treat dengue as well as create virgin coconut oil. With a goal to try anything with a chance of helping, de la Pena declared, “We are trying several medications. They may not be vaccines but they could potentially speed up the recovery.”