MANILA — The Philippines will conduct clinical trials of anti-parasitic drug ivermectin for COVID-19 treatment on President Rodrigo Duterte's order, the country's drug regulator said on Tuesday, following initial hesitancy from experts.
The Department of Science and Technology (DOST) earlier said there was no need to try ivermectin on COVID-19 patients locally because there were 20 "almost completed" and 40 "ongoing" clinical trials on this abroad.
But in a televised meeting with Duterte on Monday, DOST Secretary Fortunato dela Peña said his agency agreed with the health department for the ivermectin clinical trial to be led by the Philippine General Hospital.
"Si Presidente gusto rin niya talaga sigurong subukan sa ating mga Pilipino kaya inutos niya sa DOST na aralin din dito po sa atin," Food and Drug Administration Director General Eric Domingo said in a public briefing.
(The President wants to try this on Filipinos so he ordered the DOST to study this.)
"Gobyerno po ito, si Presidente mismo ang nag-utos noong Huwebes sa DOST saka DOH na aralin," he added, when asked who initiated the clinical trial.
(This is a government effort, the President himself ordered the DOST and DOST to study this.)
Asked why the President ordered the clinical trial, his spokesman Harry Roque said, "Natural, nais malaman ni Presidente kung talagang may basehan na epektibong gamot ang ivermectin sa COVID."
"Kung siya ay epektibo at mura, bakit naman natin hindi magagamit?" he said in a separate press briefing.
(Naturally the President wants to know if ivermectin is an effective drug against COVID. If it is effective and cheap, why will we not use it?)
Ivermectin recently made headlines after Anakalusugan Partylist Rep. Mike Defensor said he would distribute ivermectin to the sick and elderly in Quezon City, despite FDA warnings.
In the Philippines, registered ivermectin products are for veterinary use only, and are only allowed for the treatment of internal and external parasites as well as prevention of heartworm disease, the Department of Health said.
Unauthorized use of veterinary drugs could lead to brain damage and death, infectious disease expert Dr. Edsel Maurice Salvana earlier said.
The World Health Organization (WHO) has recommended against using ivermectin in patients with COVID-19 except for clinical trials, because of a lack of data demonstrating its benefits.
The recommendation follows the European Medicines Agency's warning against the drug. The US Food and Drug Administration has also recommended it not be used for COVID-19.
Merck, an ivermectin manufacturer, has also said its analysis did not support the drug's safety and efficacy for COVID-19.
— With a report from Reuters