The Department of Health (DOH) said Wednesday the clinical trials for Avigan, an anti-flu drug from Japan, said to be effective in treating COVID-19, would be conducted for nine months in four hospitals.
“Our proponent Dr. Berba, she made the protocol, she will implement this collaboration
with the four hospitals. This project would run for nine months,” Health Undersecretary Maria Rosario Vergeire said during a virtual briefing.
The four hospitals involved in the study are the Philippine General Hospital, Sta. Ana Hospital, Dr. Jose N. Rodriguez Memorial Hospital and Quirino Memorial Medical Center.
Vergeire said the Japanese government already provided doses for 100 patients.
“This underwent approval of the FDA and the ethics board so we can start. There were regulatory procedures that were undertaken so it can be started,” she added.
Besides Avigan, the Philippines also has ongoing clinical trials for anti-viral drug remdesivir through the World health Organization’s Solidarity Trial.
Remdesivir is said to be the first drug that is proven to be effective against COVID-19.
The Philippines has seen a spike in COVID-19 cases in recent weeks, with the total reaching nearly 140,000 as of Tuesday.
In a related development, Health Secretary Francisco Duque III said the Russian vaccine against COVID-19, as announced by President Vladimir Putin earlier this week in Moscow, needed further study.
“We have to learn more about it,” Duque said, replying to questions for comment on President Rodrigo Duterte’s pronouncement that he had accepted Putin's offer to provide the country with a vaccine against COVID-19, and that he was willing to try it during clinical trials.
“We need more information,” Duque said.
The Russian health ministry called the vaccine "Sputnik V" — in reference to the world's first satellite, Sputnik, launched by the Soviet Union on Oct. 4, 1957 — said it was approved by Russia after less than two months of human testing.
Sputnik V vaccine has been developed by the Gamaleya research institute in coordination with Russia’s defense ministry.
Duque agreed with Vergeire, who earlier said the DOH was reserving its evaluation on the Russian vaccine since it was still under Phase 3 of the clinical trials.
During the Unang Hirit interview, Vergeire said it was still not certain if such a vaccine would be available locally by December.
Vergeire also said aside from the one in Russia, the country was also considering five other possible vaccines from other countries.
She said experts from the Department of Science and Technology (DOST) were studying which of the six was best for the Philippines.
Meanwhile, an official of the Catholic Bishops Conference of the Philippines-Episcopal Commission on Health Care (CBCP-ECHC) welcomed the government’s positive response to Russia's offer to supply the country with the vaccine for the coronavirus disease it said it had developed.
“Yes, that's a welcome news and development. However, we have also to be wary because vaccines should have longer time in its probation as to the efficiency and effectivity. I mean it's testing whether or not it can address the virus,” said Bishop Oscar Jaime Florencio, vice chairman of the Commission.
Florencio added that the less fortunate should be prioritized in the distribution of the vaccine once available.
“With regards (sic) to the beneficiaries yes, I go of giving it free to the poor and indigents,” the Catholic prelate added.
In a public address on Monday night, President Rodrigo Duterte accepted Moscow's offer to provide vaccines for Filipinos.
Malacañang said the vaccine would first need the approval of the Food and Drug Administration before it could be administered to the public.