Duterte, Japan's Abe discussed anti-flu drug vs COVID-19: official

Arianne Merez, ABS-CBN News

Posted at Apr 15 2020 12:38 PM

FILE PHOTO: Philippine President Rodrigo Duterte shakes hands with Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe prior to their talks at Abe's official residence in Tokyo, Japan Oct. 30, 2017. Toshifumi Kitamura, Reuters/Pool

MANILA- President Rodrigo Duterte discussed with Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe an anti-flu drug that is believed to be effective against COVID-19 from Japan, a Cabinet official said Wednesday.

Duterte expressed the Philippines' willingness to participate in clinical trials for the anti-flu drug Avigan during the virtual ASEAN Plus Three Summit on COVID-19 on Tuesday.

"The President had an exchange with Japanese Prime Minister Abe regarding this drug," Cabinet Secretary Karlo Nograles said in a virtual press briefing.

Avigan is the brand name for anti-flu drug favipiravir. It is among the drugs being tested worldwide as a treatment for COVID-19. 

Another drug that has shown promise is chloroquine, which was made to treat malaria.

According to Nograles, who also participated in the virtual summit, Abe noted that there are over 50 countries interested in studying Avigan.

"Prime Minister Abe gave special mention to President Duterte in this regard,” Nograles said.

Duterte during the summit told his fellow leaders that all countries should be given fair and easy access to potential coronavirus treatments and vaccines.

"Our duty then and that of relevant multilateral institutions is to make sure that all countries will have fair and easy access to vaccines and treatments," Duterte said in a video conference with his fellow Southeast Asian leaders, and those of China, Japan and, South Korea.

Globally, COVID-19 has killed more than 100,000 people and infected over 1.8 million others, according to the World Health Organization.

In Southeast Asia meanwhile, the Philippines has the most number of confirmed COVID-19 cases in the region as of Monday, data from the ABS-CBN Data Analytics team showed.

The country on Tuesday breached the 5,000-mark in its total tally of COVID-19 cases with a nationwide count of 5,223 cases. Of the said figure, 295 have recovered and 335 have died.