500 PH patients to join WHO clinical trials on COVID-19 cure

Kristine Sabillo, ABS-CBN News

Posted at Apr 23 2020 04:12 PM | Updated as of Apr 23 2020 07:35 PM

MANILA — The Department of Health on Thursday said an initial 500 patients in the country would participate in the World Health Organization’s multi-country study in search for a COVID-19 cure.

“Initially, 500 patients ang kasama natin sa trial na ito to happen in 20 hospitals here in the Philippines,” Health Undersecretary Maria Rosario Vergeire said during a video conference with media on Thursday morning.

(Initially, 500 patients are included in the trial that will happen in 20 hospitals here in the Philippines.)

“Mayroon tayo sa iba’t ibang lugar sa Pilipinas na napiling ospital hindi lang dito sa Metro Manila,” she added.

(We have chosen hospitals from different areas in the Philippines, not just in Metro Manila.)

The DOH announced during the first week of April that it was joining the WHO’s Solidarity Trial, which will test the effectivity of several off-label drugs against COVID-19. 

The drugs are: (1) remdesivir, (2) lopinavir and ritonavir combined, (3) two drugs plus interferon beta, and (4) chloroquine.

These off-label drugs were originally made to treat other diseases such as malaria or Ebola. It takes several months or years to develop a drug to treat a disease such as COVID-19, so experts have resorted to finding existing drugs that could help treat the new strain of coronavirus.

As of this week, more than 100 countries have already signed up for the WHO clinical trials. Patients enrolled in the study would be randomly assigned a drug for their treatment.

The hospitals in the Philippines participating in the Solidarity Trial are Philippine General Hospital
The Medical City, San Lazaro Hospital, Lung Center of the Philippines, Research Institute for Tropical Medicine, Baguio General Hospital, East Avenue Medical Center, Makati Medica Center, St. Lukes Medical Center Global, St. Lukes Medical Center Quezon City, University of the East Ramon Magsaysay Medical Center, Cardinal Santos Medical Center, Manila Doctors Hospital, Manila Medical Center, Chinese General Hospital, San Juan de Dios Medical Center, Diliman Doctors Hospital, University of Santo Tomas Hospital, Vicente Sotto Medical Center, Southern Phil Medical Center, and World Citi Medical Center.

The DOH announced on Wednesday that the country’s ethics board already approved the Philippine participation.

Vergeire also said that documents, including the planned protocol of implementation, have already been sent to the WHO. The WHO, on the other hand, has promised shipment of the drugs that will be used for the trials.

“Pero may mga plano na tayo habang wala pa ang shipment ng gamot maaari nang mag-umpisa, baka sakali sana 'pag naayos na ang mga dokumento, makapag-umpisa bukas ang ating proponent ng kanilang trial nga,” she said.

(We have plans to start even if the shipment is not yet here. If the documents are in order then our proponents can start the trial tomorrow.)

Vergeire said local hospitals could use the country’s current stock of off-label drugs while waiting for the shipment from WHO.

She also said that the trial could further be expanded to include more patients or a longer testing time.