The Philippines and Japan are planning to begin clinical trials of Avigan before the end of the month, in the hope of using the anti-influenza drug as a treatment for the new coronavirus.
Philippine Health Undersecretary Maria Rosario Vergeire told Kyodo News on late Thursday that arrangements are being finalized to begin testing on people afflicted with the disease as soon as possible.
"We are expediting the process, so we hope we could start before the end of the month," she said, noting that discussions for the testing size and duration have yet to be concluded.
The Philippines expressed willingness to participate in the clinical trials for Avigan during a virtual summit held last Tuesday with leaders of Southeast Asian countries, Japan, China and South Korea.
During the teleconference, Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe said there are 50 countries interested in studying the drug further as a potential treatment for COVID-19, the illness caused by the virus.
Avigan is manufactured by a group firm of Japan's Fujifilm Holdings Corp., which has recently started boosting its production of the drug, aiming to have enough supply to treat 300,000 patients a month by September.
Aside from the clinical trials for Avigan, the Philippines, along with 69 other countries, will also participate in the tests organized by the World Health Organization for five other drugs.
Marissa Alejandria, president of the Philippine Society for Microbiology and Infectious Diseases, said the WHO clinical trials will study and evaluate the effectiveness of hydroxychloroquine, chloroquine, lopinavir, ritonavir plus interferon and remdesivir, for their effectiveness against COVID-19.
"We are just waiting for the approval of the (Food and Drug Administration) and our ethical review board to start the clinical trials," she said yesterday, adding that the tests will commence in the coming weeks.
As of Friday, the Philippine government had recorded 5,878 coronavirus cases nationwide and 387 deaths.