More participants for experimental COVID-19 treatment sought in Philippines

Jasmin Romero, ABS-CBN News

Posted at Aug 17 2021 09:49 PM

 An experimental COVID-19 treatment pill, called Molnupiravir being developed by Merck & Co Inc and Ridgeback Biotherapeutics LP, is seen in this undated handout photo released by. Merck & Co Inc/handout via Reuters
An experimental COVID-19 treatment pill, called Molnupiravir being developed by Merck & Co Inc and Ridgeback Biotherapeutics LP, is seen in this undated handout photo released by. Merck & Co Inc/handout via Reuters

MANILA - Doctors are now looking for more participants in the ongoing trials for oral drug Molnupiravir that is being tested worldwide to treat mild to moderate cases of COVID-19.

The drug is being evaluated by the global MOVe-OUT clinical trial where non-hospitalized patients with confirmed COVID- 19 
or early symptoms are being given 800 mg dose of Molunupiravir twice daily for five days.

“It is an oral antiviral pill currently under clinical trial... it is not a repurposed drug and its mechanism of action is to insert itself into the SARS COVID-2 virus,” said Dr. Mary Ann Galang-Escalona, the country medical lead of MSD in the Philippines.

She explained that once the virus enters your body, and if you are given Molnupiravir early in the course of the disease, for example, Molnupiravir may cause a "viral error catastrophe" five days or less from the onset of symptoms.

Galang-Escalona said "viral error catastrophe" is where once the drug inserts itself into the body of the virus, the “copies the virus will make will all be defective”, therefore will “not be able to cause further infection in the body”, reducing the chances of the disease to wreak havoc, and reducing chances of the patient being rushed to the hospital and/or death.

“Once it gets approved hopefully, we wish to have a way to address the spike in the number of cases since we are seeing another surge in the number of cases, and we are seeing another trend in the hospitals getting overburdened with the severe cases getting in the ICU, the lineup in the hospitals getting to be admitted,” Galang- Escalona said.

“Data is very encouraging, possibly preventing hospitalization, possibly mortality,” said Dr. Virginia Delos Reyes, investigator of Lung Center of the Philippines principal.

“What would be the expected benefits of the treatment? There are faster resolution of the symptoms, mas mabilis ang recovery and hopefully, no untoward side effects or undue adverse reactions will occur while the patient is being treated,” said Quirino Memorial Medical Center principal investigator Dr. Joel Santiaguel.

Phase 2 of the clinical trials has shown the “clinical benefit” of Molnupiravir for those with mild to moderate coronavirus infection. 
Phase 3 of the trial is expected to begin either September or October of this year.

Trials for Molnupiravir are being conducted at the Lung Center of the Philippines and Quirino Memorial Medical Center.

Patients eligible for the trials are adult males and females; who have received no COVID vaccine; have tested COVID-19 positive in the last 5 days; no hospitalization; experiencing COVID symptoms like coughs, colds, with at least one health condition; over 60 years old; with active cancer, obesity, chronic liver disease, serious heart condition and diabetes.

“It is important they sign a consent, pumapayag sila na they will be included and enrolled in the clinical trial. The patients will be followed up in the site initially, be seen in the hospital or ER, 
and once it is decided that the patient can be managed at home," said Santiaguel.

"The patient will be sent home and will be followed up by the team either phone contact or the site team will see the patient at home and there will be some visits virtually. Participation of the patients will be first week, ito iyung intense follow-up. Pero overall in terms of duration of participation, it will be up to seven months,” he added.

While there are no guarantees that the trials will be 100% safe, trial results show no major side effects yet, while patients stay under the monitoring of doctors.

While results of trials are still underway, MSD is hoping that the earliest submission of an emergency use authorization for Molnupiravir in the United States for Molnupiravir will be in the second half of 2021.

“Globally we have reached more than 50% target number of patients, so the application of the EUA will start with the US first after they have presented the interim data analysis from the 50% of the total number of the participants," Galang-Escalona said.

"In the Philippines, that will depend on the US EUA application. As for the cost, we do not have feasibility (study) as to how much Molnupiravir will cost but that will depend on the economic status of the country,” he added.

Those who wish to participate can get in touch with the study investigators: LCP, Dr. Virginia Delos Reyes at 0917-899-9610, and in QMMC, Dr. Joel Santiaguel at 0917-841-3314. For more information, or visit to enroll.


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