The Philippines started its nine-month clinical trials for Avigan to study the efficacy of the Japanese anti-flu drug against the disease caused by the new coronavirus.
Health Undersecretary Maria Rosario Vergeire said the clinical trials would initially include four Metro Manila hospitals.
“The list of hospitals will be expanded for us to be able to have these 100 patients who will receive the allocated drugs coming from the Japanese government,” Vergeire told a press conference Wednesday.
Avigan is the brand name of favipiravir, an antiviral drug manufactured by a subsidiary of Japanese firm Fujifilm Holdings Corp., which is seen as a potential treatment for COVID-19, a respiratory disease caused by the novel coronavirus.
Number of COVID-19 cases top 170,000
The total number of COVID-19 cases climbed to 173,774 Wednesday after the Department of Health (DOH) announced 4,650 new infections.
This is the eighth consecutive day in which more than 3,000 new cases were logged.
The five provinces with the highest number of new infections were Metro Manila with 3,092, Cavite with 249, Laguna with 194, Rizal with 189, and Bulacan with 136.
The department also reported 11 new fatalities due to COVID-19, bringing its total death toll to 2,795.
The total number of recoveries rose to 113,481 after 716 more patients were reported to have recovered from the respiratory disease.
There are 57,498 active cases in which the patient is undergoing treatment or being quarantined.
COVID-19 test subjects to be paid
Clinical trial participants for COVID-19 vaccines will be compensated for the time they spend on the project. However, they won’t be paid excessively, a local vaccine trial expert said.
“We should not be giving excessive compensation that it would become undue,” said Dr. Lulu Bravo, executive director of the Philippine Foundation for Vaccination, during a Department of Science and Technology briefing.
Bravo, who has done clinical trials for vaccines in the Philippines over the last two decades, is optimistic that more people would be volunteering because they understand the importance and benefits of the trials.
She said this is already happening in the United States where more than 350,000 people enlisted for a vaccine’s clinical trials when only 100,000 were needed.
Employers should send workers for testing
Employers should not think twice about sending their workers to COVID-19 testing because PhilHealth would be able to shoulder the cost, Senator Joel Villanueva said Wednesday.
Villanueva, chairman of the Senate labor committee, sought assurance from Health Secretary Francisco Duque III at the resumption of the Senate hearings into allegations of corruption at the state health insurance firm.
He said PhilHealth has enough funds to monitor and conduct COViD testing in a workplace.
“COVID-19 surveillance in the workplace should be mandatory, and PhilHealth should pay for it,” he added.
At the hearing, Duque, who is also concurrent PhilHealth chairman, agreed with Villanueva, saying he was expecting the state health insurance firm to put together a program to cover the cost of testing workers.
Don’t overstock on vitamins, drug firms say
DRUG companies said on Wednesday they are ramping up production of vitamins and appealed to consumers not to overstock, as drug stores report high demand for them.
“The high demand for vitamins has also resulted in an artificial medicine shortage,” the Pharmaceutical and Healthcare Association of the Philippines (PHAP) said in a statement.
PHAP said it is advising consumers not to overstock on vitamins so that vulnerable patients and at-risk groups are not left without these essential medicines.