There is no need to conduct a clinical trial on ivermectin in the Philippines to determine the effectiveness of the anti-parasite drug in COVID-19 treatment, the Department of Science and Technology (DOST) said Monday.
Clinical trials "require a minimum of six months and can extend to years," said Science Secretary Fortunato dela Peña.
There are 20 "almost completed" and 40 "ongoing" clinical trials on the efficacy of ivermectin in treating COVID-19, dela Peña said in a public briefing.
The DOST's Philippine Council for Health Research and Development "issued the position that there is no need to conduct another clinical trial in the Philippines as most ongoing trials or clinical trials have already been started since 2020," he said.
"It would be appropriate to await the results of these studies that already significantly advanced in terms of data collection and conducting interim analysis," Dela Peña said.
Meanwhile, the Department of Health has advised the public to wait for experts' evaluation on the use of anti-parasitic drug ivermectin for treatment of COVID-19.
DOH said they would need to finalize their report before informing the public of the evaluation.
"Let’s just wait for the advice of experts. It’s not going to be long...so the government will be able to monitor and be accountable if ever you take that drug," DOH spokesperson and Undersecretary Maria Rosario Vergeire said on ANC's Headstart.
Government cannot guarantee the safety and quality of the drug, which is currently unregistered for human intake, Vergeire said.
"Second would be they can have this false sense of security because they are taking this drug already and they might think they can be cured or prevented from having this infection," Vergeire said.
“It is really harmful for your health if we settle for something which is not evidence-based and which the studies would show right now doesn't really have that positive outcome against COVID,” she said.
The advisory emerged as socialite Katrina Ponce-Enrile, daughter of former Senator Juan Ponce-Enrile, claimed she was treated with Ivermectin that was compounded by its main proponent Dr. Allan Landrito.
She said she took it for five days straight after testing positive for COVID-19 for the fourth time and was now beginning to feel better after taking ivermectin.
Katrina said she tested positive in December 2019, then in July and September of 2020, and last March.
Between the first and the third, she had to go through all the body aches and anxieties. “I am what the doctors call a ‘long hauler,’” she said.
In her fourth bout with the disease, Katrina took Ivermectin right away which she did not do during the first three times.
The Food and Drug Administration last week allowed the drug's compassionate use in one hospital.
Other hospitals that want to use ivermectin should secure separate compassionate use permits, FDA director general Eric Domingo said.
The agency has received two applications for certificate of product registration for the drug, he added.
At the same time, DOH reminded the public that rapid antigen test kits for COVID-19 could not be used at home as they could only be administered by an authorized medical professional.
Vergeire said antigen kits had not yet been approved for home use under the current regulations.
She explained that antigen tests must only be conducted by health workers and in an “appropriate” setting.
She said: “The ones being used at home and purchased online can cause problems. You will be misguided because it might give you false results.”
Meanwhile, the president of the Philippine Hospital Association earlier urged health authorities to “empower the people” to test themselves for COVID-19 by allowing the commercial distribution of rapid antigen test kits.
“It is as easy as doing a pregnancy test and people will be taught how to do self-collection of specimens,” Dr. Jaime Almora said.
The DOH has thumbed down renewed calls for mass testing amid a surge in cases, stressing that the government is focused on “risk-based” testing instead.
Meanwhile, Pasay City Mayor Imelda Rubiano said the city government was open to the idea using the controversial ivermectin as well as other alternative treatments against COVID-19 as long as they were certified as safe and approved by the FDA.
Rubiano said she believed in the knowledge and expertise of the people at the FDA and was convinced that they would not recommend anything that could harm the people.
Former Health secretary and herbal medicine advocate Dr. Jaime Galvez Tan earlier advised the public to use natural medicines to fortify their immune system to combat the deadly coronavirus.
“Filipinos are blessed with affordable and natural remedies. With God’s grace, we shall overcome Covid-19. We had overcome past plagues like SARS bird flu, and the HINI Middle East Respiratory Syndrome (MERS)-corona,” Dr. Galvez-Tan said.
In a recent interview, the former DOH secretary specifically named coconut and its byproduct virgin coconut oil as effective means to combat coronavirus.
The doctor said the coconut’s lauric acid or laurine, also found in mother’s milk and is good for baby’s bones and brain development, had been scientifically proven as antiviral and antibacterial.
“Feast on coconut water, coconut meat, and coconut milk. Also take one tablespoon of virgin coconut oil at least once a day, at best three times a day,” Galvez-Tan said.
Currently, coconut and the herb tawa-tawa—and their anti-viral properties—are being tested and explored to fight COVID-19.
Ateneo professor Fabian Antonio Dayrit, and Dr. Mary Newport, a specialist based in Spring Hill, Florida, have studied the lauric acid of coconuts and its derivative, monolaurin.
The two researchers said that monolaurin can disintegrate COVID-19’s envelope, inhibit its late maturation stage, and prevent its binding to the host’s cell membrane.