MANILA - The Philippines will wait for further research on a combination of medications for flu and HIV that supposedly treated cases of coronavirus in Thailand, Manila's health minister said Tuesday.
A mixture of anti-HIV drugs lopinavir and ritonavir plus large doses of flu drug oseltamivir supposedly improved the condition of several novel coronavirus patients, including a 71-year-old woman, under the care of Rajavithi Hospital in Bangkok, its doctors said.
The treatment lacks scientific basis and is only backed by anecdotal evidence so far, Health Secretary Francisco Duque III said, quoting the World Health Organization.
Duque said he was also uncertain if the so-called "drug cocktail" was applied to "mild" coronavirus cases in which patients get better on their own, or "severe" cases, about 2 percent of which lead to death.
"Kailangan pa natin ng further advisories kasi mahirap din naman baka may mangyari sa paggamit mo ng gamot, magiging pananagutan pa natin, kukumplika lang lalo ang sitwasyon," he told DZMM.
(We need further advisories because itis difficult if something bad happens due to the medicine. That will be our liability and the situation will be more complicated.)
"Maigi na iyong maghintay-hintay tayo. Kung may patunay itong cocktail na ito ay talagang epektibo, mabisa, ba't hindi naman natin gagamitin," he added.
(It's better that we wait for a bit. If there is evidence that this cocktail is effective, why will we refrain from using it?)
The coronavirus outbreak that emerged from China has killed more than 425, including a 44-year-old Chinese man who arrived in Manila in January.
The fatality from the Chinese central city of Wuhan, the outbreak's epicenter, showed "signs of improvement" before his health deteriorated, said Duque.
"Sa China, ganoon din e. Maraming kaso na mabilis ang kanilang downturn, nagdi-deteriorate ang kaso nila," he said.
(In China, it's the same, there are many cases where their health deteriorated quickly.)
The Philippines is checking another confirmed coronavirus patient: a 38-year-old woman from Wuhan, as well as 80 possible cases of the disease, he said.
WHO data shows that out of the total cases worldwide, 64 percent are men and 36 percent are woman. Those aged above 40 also appear more vulnerable to the disease, noted Duque.
The coronavirus outbreak has stoked a wave of anti-China sentiment around the globe, from shops barring entry to Chinese tourists, online mocking or the country's exotic meat trade and surprise health checks on foreign workers.
In Manila, Adamson University asked all its Chinese students to observe a 14-day self-quarantine as a precaution. Criticism of that decision led the university to extend the quarantine to all students and staff who had traveled to areas where the virus was prevalent.
President Rodrigo Duterte on Monday urged the public to stop stirring up anti-Chinese xenophobia related to the outbreak that has infected more than 20,000.
"China has been kind to us, we can only also show the same favor to them. Stop this xenophobia thing", he said.
The Philippines is host to dozens of offshore gambling operators that employ many Chinese workers.
Chinese tourists accounted for 22 percent of the 7.5 million visitors to the Philippines between January and November last year, making China the second-highest nation of origin for international travelers to the country.
To contain the spread of the virus, the Philippine on Sunday expanded its travel ban to include all foreigners coming from China, widening an earlier restriction that covered only those from Hubei province.
Duterte said the government is looking at the possibility of using a drug rehabilitation facility donated by a Chinese philanthropist to quarantine Filipino evacuees from Hubei. With a report from Reuters