MANILA – The country is set to conduct clinical trials on the use of the anti-parasitic drug Ivermectin in a bid to find treatments for coronavirus disease 2019 (Covid-19).

In a taped meeting with President Rodrigo Duterte aired late Monday, Department of Science and Technology (DOST) Secretary Fortunato de la Peña said the clinical trial may take around six months but this could be shorter if there would be many volunteers.

De la Peña said he and Health Secretary Francisco Duque III decided to hold the clinical trials and are eyeing the quarantine centers near the Philippine General Hospital (PGH) as a venue.

To recall, the DOST earlier issued a statement saying there is no need to do a clinical trial on the use of Ivermectin for Covid-19 in the country since there are completed and ongoing clinical trials exploring the use of Ivermectin formulations against Covid-19 globally.

The Department of Health (DOH) has allocated a fund for the clinical trials to be led by Dr. Aileen Wang of the University of the Philippines-Manila.

"At hopefully po ay 'pag natapos 'yong trial na 'yan ay magkaroon tayo ng mas reliable estimates ng epekto ng Ivermectin bilang isang anti-viral agent at na makapag reduce po nung virus shedding sa mga mild at moderate patients. At makikita natin ang epekto ng Ivermectin doon sa haba ng hospitalization nung iba (Hopefully after the clinical trial, we would have reliable estimates of the effects of Ivermectin as an anti-viral agent that could reduce virus shedding among mild to moderate patients. We hope to see the influence of Ivermectin on the hospital stay of patients)," de la Peña said.

De la Peña compared the Ivermectin clinical trial to the ongoing clinical trial on the efficacy of virgin coconut oil (VCO) as an adjunct therapy for Covid-19.

"So kagaya po nung aming eksperimento sa virgin coconut oil, nakita po namin doon sa mga mild cases, doon sa suspects and probable, na iyon pong recovery period noong nag-take ng VCO ay five days earlier than doon sa hindi nag-take ng VCO (We have seen that those with mild cases, suspects and probable cases who took the VCO have recovered five days earlier than those who did not take the VCO)."

Aside from VCO, de la Peña said the agency is also studying the use of lagundi as another "therapeutic" that could help in the recovery of Covid-19 patients. The clinical trial on lagundi might be finished within a month, he added.

The study aims to determine if lagundi, as adjuvant therapy, can provide symptomatic relief for mild Covid-19 patients without comorbidities, or it can decrease the number of patients who progress from mild to moderate or severe cases.

He added that the DOST has started the study on tawa-tawa herbal supplement.

"Kasi po napatunayan na nakakapag-improve rin po ng recovery ng may dengue kaya susubukan naman sa Covid-19 (It has been proven that it could help in the recovery of patients with dengue, so we would study its effects on Covid-19 patients)," de la Peña said. 

Early this month, the Food and Drug Administration has granted a compassionate special permit for a hospital’s use of Ivermectin, which had been earlier approved only for animal use to prevent heartworm disease and treat parasite infections. 

Even with the granting of a compassionate special permit, the DOH warned that the distribution and promotion of Ivermectin as a treatment for coronavirus in humans is a violation of the law. (PNA)