Cancer drug no longer considered for WHO trial against COVID-19 in PH

Kristine Sabillo, ABS-CBN News

Posted at Dec 14 2020 04:51 PM

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Participants still being recruited for remdesivir study

MANILA — The Department of Health on Monday revealed that while the World Health Organization (WHO) already sent the Philippines a shipment of a cancer drug to treat COVID-19 patients, the international body had decided to no longer use it.

“Yung acalabrutinib, hindi sya matutuloy. Nagbigay na ng recommendation ang WHO. It’s not going to be part of the solidarity trial anymore,” Health Undersecretary Maria Rosario Vergeire said during a virtual briefing.

(The acalabrutinib study will no longer be done. The WHO already gave a recommendation. It’s not going to be part of the solidarity trial anymore.)

The Solidarity Trial is a multi-country clinical trial meant to fast-track the testing of off-label drugs against COVID-19.

The WHO stopped the study arms of the other drugs included in the trial because of the lack of positive effect on patients. 

Vergeire said in October that the WHO was looking into cancer drug acalabrutinib, and that a shipment was on the way to the Philippines.

On Monday, she said the drugs have arrived, but because it will no longer be used for the trial, the government will have to set a disposal mechanism for it.

Meanwhile, despite initial studies showing that it has no effect on the mortality of patients, remdesivir is still being used for the WHO Solidarity Trial.

“WHO still recommends to continue because they are saying we might have a different result if we have a bigger population of participants,” Vergeire said.

Because of this, the Philippines and other participating countries are still recruiting patients for the study.

As of Monday, Vergeire said there are already 438 patients participating for the remdesivir trial.

The trials for COVID-19 treatment using off-label drugs continue even as the rollout of vaccines against the disease had already begun in the United Kingdom and the United States.

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