DOST shuns Philippine clinical trial for ivermectin vs COVID-19

ABS-CBN News

Posted at Apr 12 2021 06:34 PM

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The Department of Science and Technology (DOST) on Monday said it sees no need for conducting a clinical trial in the Philippines to determine the effectiveness of anti-parasite drug ivermectin in COVID-19 treatment. 

Clinical trials "require a minimum of six months and can extend to years," said DOST Secretary Fortunato dela Peña. 

There are 20 "almost completed" and 40 "ongoing" clinical trials on the efficacy of ivermectin in treating COVID-19, he said in a public briefing. 

The DOST's Philippine Council for Health Research and Development "issued the position that there is no need to conduct another clinical trial in the Philippines as most ongoing trials or clinical trials already been started since 2020," Dela Peña said. 

"It would be appropriate to await the results of these studies that already significantly advanced in terms of data collection and conducting interim analysis," he said. 

A former health secretary and an infectious disease expert earlier called for Philippine clinical trials for ivermectin as a COVID-19 treatment. 

Last week, the country's drug regulator granted one hospital a special permit to use the anti-parasitic medicine for its COVID-19 patients. 

A compassionate special permit allows experimental or unregistered drugs for limited off-label use. Acquiring such a permit does not mean, however, that the drug is proven to be effective since that requires a clinical trial. 
 
Ivermectin recently made headlines after Anakalusugan Partylist Rep. Mike Defensor said he would distribute ivermectin to the sick and elderly in Quezon City, despite FDA warnings. 

In the Philippines, registered ivermectin products are for veterinary use only, and are only allowed for the treatment of internal and external parasites as well as prevention of heartworm disease, the Department of Health said.

Unauthorized use of veterinary drugs could lead to brain damage and death, infectious disease expert Dr. Edsel Maurice Salvana earlier said. 

The World Health Organization (WHO) has recommended against using ivermectin in patients with COVID-19 except for clinical trials, because of a lack of data demonstrating its benefits.

The recommendation follows the European Medicines Agency's warning against the drug. The US Food and Drug Administration has also recommended it not be used for COVID-19.

Merck, an ivermectin manufacturer, has also said its analysis did not support the drug's safety and efficacy for COVID-19.

— With a report from Reuters