DOST open to supporting other Covid-19 clinical trials

By Ma. Cristina Arayata

June 17, 2020, 7:19 pm

MANILA -- The Department of Science and Technology (DOST) is open to supporting and funding other clinical trials on a possible cure or treatment for the coronavirus disease 2019 (Covid-19), an official said on Wednesday.

"We are open, but (proposals will have to) be proven to have significant potential for success," DOST-Philippine Council for Health Research and Development executive director Jaime Montoya told the Philippine News Agency (PNA) in a message.

Montoya added that if the potential for success is low, the DOST will not support it.

"We have to be judicious with government funds. Sometimes also if the evidence is already there, we don't have to repeat the studies," he said.

Some of the proposals, he said, may have to be reviewed by the health technology assessment council if the government should buy or use the products. If it involves complementary or alternative medicine, the Philippine Institute for Traditional and Alternative Health Care (PITAHC) will be the one to review it.

"We base our decisions on which to fund on the scientific validity and potential for success of the research proposal," Montoya said.

Currently, the DOST is supporting the hospital-based and community-based clinical studies on the effectiveness of virgin coconut oil (VCO) in the recovery of Covid-19 patients.

Recently, the PCHRD has approved a PHP9.8-million project for clinical trials on the use of high dose melatonin as a supplementary treatment for Covid-19 patients with pneumonia and high-risk features. The project would run for four months for patients admitted at the Manila Doctors Hospital (MDH).

In an online interview with the PNA, DOST Secretary Fortunato dela Peña said it was the MDH that reached out to the DOST.

He said the research and development (R&D) funds of the Department of Health is being managed by the PCHRD.

"When we fund, we make sure that the project approved is relevant, responsive, timely, building capability and done by qualified people in the most efficient, least risks and shortest time possible," dela Peña said.

"We exert a lot of effort and engage the most knowledgeable people in the whole process," he said.

Dela Peña also clarified that if VCO and melatonin would be proven effective against Covid-19, it would still be the doctors' decision whether they would like to use these as treatments. Suppliers, on the other hand, would have to meet the requirements of the Food and Drug Administration, he said. (PNA