"Time is running out for many patients. We need to act as soon as we can."
While our current restrictions have reportedly eased the transmission of the disease, the number of deaths from COVID-19 continues to rise. Lately, the mortalities from this pandemic seem to hit closer to home as many Filipinos report loss of loved ones, friends, or acquaintances in the past few weeks. Across social media platforms, condolences and messages of sympathy pour in to the families left by victims of COVID-19. This paints the depressing picture of today’s desperate times.
The alarming surge of COVID-19 cases has left hospitals and health care facilities in the NCR plus bubble with little to no room at all for other patients. Most Metro Manila hospitals are in full and critical capacity, while other hospitals in Luzon have started to accommodate COVID-19 patients from the NCR plus bubble. Meanwhile, some hospitals already resorted to tele-consultation or e-consultations to make health care services available and accessible to the public remotely.
We are in dire straits. Although the vaccination program of the government has been successfully rolled out, this is not an all-encompassing solution to COVID-19. As experts have said, the vaccines cannot completely eliminate the risks of getting infected. We may still be infected, but we can be assured that the vaccines will protect us from severe infection and prevent death. However, as we wait for more supplies, how else do we resolve this crisis?
As indeed we are in desperate times, we cannot refrain from calling for desperate measures. Recently, debates on the efficacy of a certain drug called ivermectin surfaced. This, along with a few scientific studies on the said drug, put ivermectin on the map as one of the potential treatments for COVID-19. The Food and Drug Administration has earlier released a warning against the use and purchase of ivermectin which is a known anti-parasitic drug used solely for animals. Early this week, however, the Department of Science and Technology allowed the conduct of clinical trials to determine the effect of ivermectin against COVID-19. There were also reports of previously approved permits for compassionate use of Ivermectin granted to two unnamed hospitals. According to FDA Director General Eric Domingo, the President has given his instructions to study this drug.
I am not a doctor nor a medical expert. However, I believe that in times of crisis, we need all the help we can get. With the deeply disturbing increase in the COVID-19 cases and mortalities, we cannot simply close our doors to all possible solutions. Thus, I agree that we give potential treatments such as ivermectin a chance. We already have the virgin coconut oil which was reportedly found to alleviate the symptoms of COVID-19 for mild cases. I hope that our medical experts start looking into these potential options more seriously. While clinical trials are best to determine its efficacy, perhaps the Department of Health and other agencies can review recent studies by foreign agencies and medical organizations on ivermectin to complement the actual trials and compare already identified patterns on the action, efficacy, and possible side effects of the drug. Another promising research is the study of the efficacy of virgin coconut oil on severe COVID-19 cases. We have distinguished research agencies and hospitals which can competently embark on these endeavors. The government should equip and support them to facilitate the conduct of these studies.
I understand that science and medicine go hand in hand. I also believe and agree that the “do no harm” principle among doctors must be upheld. However, when a loved one’s life is on the line, it is human nature to seek all the possible options just to save their lives. Let us not easily dismiss our options without carefully studying them. Time is running out for many patients, we need to act as soon as we can.