MANILA - A Filipino doctor on Friday pushed the use of anti-inflammatory drug leronlimab as treatment for seriously ill COVID-19 patients.
Dr. Randy Nicolas, associate clinical professor for surgery at the University of the Philippines-Philippine General Hospital, said the investigational drug was used to treat former President Joseph "Erap" Estrada after contracting the virus.
"The biggest improvement was actually his respiration. His demand for oxygen was less. He was able to get off the ventilator. He continued to improve," he told ANC.
"And after the second dose when he was admitted to the ICU, he again showed the same pattern of improvement, approximately 35 to 52 hours after the second dose. That's what we see in our patients as well," he added.
Estrada was discharged from the hospital on Monday after nearly a 1-month bout with COVID-19.
Leronlimab, which is being investigated for use in the treatment of coronavirus, is developed by US-based biotech company CytoDyn.
The humanized monoclonal antibody , which was originally designed to treat HIV, has so far been studied in 11 clinical trials for HIV infection.
"They had almost a thousand patients on this drug for 5 years with zero adverse effects. The safety record of this drug is absolutely astounding," Nicolas said.
For COVID-19 treatment, he said leronlimab targets the cytokine called CCR5 receptor found on T lymphocytes of the human immune system.
Nicolas explained that COVID-19 is a 2-phase disease - virus phase and immune phase.
"The virus phase is the constitutional symptoms. The fever, cough, loss of taste and smell, and body aches. This is where we need to actively treat the patients before they go into the second stage," he said.
"The second stage is the stage that kills. This is the immune stage. The initiator of the immune phase is actually our own immune system, meaning to say our immune system forgets about the virus and starts attacking our own cells...Leronlimab is an antibody that blocks the cytokine that initiates the immune response. The immune phase is stopped by this drug."
Nicolas noted it was Estrada's team of doctors who suggested the use of leronlimab, which came from the US.
"When I look at the science, I was thoroughly convinced that leronlimab is truly the drug of choice for severe, critical COVID," he said.
The Food and Drug Administration has not yet approved Leronlimab for treatment of COVID-19 patients.
However, the agency has so far given 2 doctors compassionate special permit to use the drug against the respiratory illness.