MEDICINE used to treat a Sars-CoV-2 infection are considered experimental because, while they can be effective in the treatment of the coronavirus disease (Covid-19), they are actually intended to address a different ailment.
Take Avigan, for example. It is an anti-viral medicine (favipiravir) from Japan which is used to treat influenza. Because it is an antiviral and the Sars-C-V-2 is a virus, Avigan is being used as part of clinical trials for drugs that have the potential to treat the Covid-19. The clinical trial for Avigan in the Philippines is expected to start this week.
There are other medicines used to treat Covid-19 patients although these are meant for other diseases. A person hospitalized for Covid-19 may get doses of Tocilizumab, an immunosuppressive drug used for the treatment of rheumatoid arthritis and severe arthritis in children, and cortisteroids such as betamethasone or dexamethasone used primarily to ease swelling, itching and allergic reactions by reducing immune system activity. The Tocilizumab and cortisteroids are used to address a blood disorder on Covid-19 patients when their immune system goes on overdrive. This reaction leads to a condition where the patient can form blood clots that can cause a stroke, heart attack or organ failure.
As to the Avigan, it addresses a kind of virus and it can help mitigate the damage to the patient’s respiratory system.
It was a welcome development then when the Department of Health (DOH) announced that the clinical trial for Avigan as treatment for Covid-19 will begin this week. Health Undersecretary Maria Rosario Vergeire said the Philippines received the antiviral medicine from Japan good for 100 patients.
She said the clinical trial for Avigan on Covid-19 will start soon. But first, the DOH will finalize the clinical trial agreement and ethics review of the hospitals and create a database of all the information about the trial participants, including the effects of the medicine on them.
In an earlier interview, Vergeire said the Avigan clinical trial will cover four hospitals in Metro Manila initially but more will be added in the future to reach 100 participants. It won’t be hard to identify the 100 patients from the 48,803 active cases in the country as of Sept. 6, 2020.
What Vergeire should ensure is the wide distribution of the Avigan trial coverage so that not only patients in the capital region can be included.
Based on my experience as a Covid-19 survivor, I was told by doctors that the Avigan helped stop further damage to my lungs. I was fortunate to have started my Avigan treatment even at the emergency room. At that time, the hospital and the DOH didn’t have the medicine. (My boss Julius “Jayjay” Neri Jr., SunStar Publishing Inc. president, brought the Avigan to the hospital. The medicine came from Presidential Assistant for the Visayas Secretary Michael Dino.)
As a step toward finding an effective and safe treatment for Covid-19 patients, the DOH will have to ensure that the clinical trial for Avigan reaches different provinces with infection cases.