Philippines resumes trial use of hydroxychloroquine for COVID-19 treatment

Kristine Sabillo, ABS-CBN News

Posted at Jun 04 2020 01:04 PM | Updated as of Jun 04 2020 01:23 PM

MANILA — The Philippines is resuming the trial use of hydroxychloroquine in treating COVID-19 patients after the World Health Organization lifted the temporary pause of the malaria drug in its multi-country trial, a health official said Thursday.

“Ili-lift na yung pag-stop, at itutuloy natin ang gamutan dito sa hydroxychloroquine,” Health Undersecretary Maria Rosario Vergeire said during a media briefing.

(We’ll lift the suspension, and we’ll continue treating people with hydroxychloroquine.)

The resumption comes more than a week after the country followed the WHO directive to momentarily stop using the off-label drug because of its potentially serious side effects, including heart arrhythmia.

The arthritis medicine that also can be used to prevent malaria was found in initial studies to be a promising treatment for COVID-19, which emerged late last year from China.

U.S. President Donald Trump said last month he was taking hydroxychloroquine as a preventive medicine against the coronavirus despite medical warnings about the use of the malaria drug.

Hydroxychloroquine is one of the four drug and drug combinations being used for the WHO’s Solidarity Trial that attempts to find a cure for COVID-19. The others are remdesivir, lopinavir and ritonavir combined, and two drugs plus interferon beta.

The WHO decided to resume using hydroxychloroquine on June 3.

Dr. Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus, director-general of the WHO, said during a briefing that after reviewing the information, they found “no reasons to modify the trial,” which, so far, covers more than 3,500 patients from 35 countries.

“Actually hanggang alas dose ng hatinggabi, nag-meeting kagabi ang executive committee ng WHO, kasama yung mga proponents natin dito sa Solidarity Trial, para mapagdiskusyunan at maintindihan nila ang hydroxychloroquine na sitwasyon bago nila binigay yung statement,” Vergeire said.

(Actually, the executive committee of the WHO and the proponents for the Solidarity Trial here in the Philippines met last night until midnight to discuss this issue before giving out a statement.)

“And they now have decided, it is okay, and we will now include hydroxychloroquine,” she added.

Vergeire said the public should not think that the concerned organizations are being inconsistent since the COVID-19 situation is evolving.

She said decisions may change, based on new evidence, since the virus was just recently discovered and is still being studied.

“We stand by the position that this is the evolving nature of this disease. And decisions may really be changed quite fast because of these new (pieces of) evidence that come out every day,” she said.

“Tayo ay makikinig. Tayo ay susunod at tayo ay magtutuloy ulit nitong hydroxychloroquine,” she added.

(We listen. We follow, and now we will continue using hydroxychloroquine.)

The Philippines has logged nearly 20,000 confirmed COVID-19 cases, as of June 4, of which, 4,153 patients have recovered, while 974 succumbed to the disease.

-- with report from Reuters