DOH allows continued hydroxychloroquine treatment if already started

The Department of Health (DOH) said on Wednesday, May 27, that patients who have been taking hydroxychloroquine before the World Health Organization (WHO) warned against the use of the drug can continue with the treatment, but under close monitoring.

Health Undersecretary Maria Rosario Vergeire said during the government's Laging Handa briefing on Wednesday that the WHO recommendation was to stop administering the drug to new patients.

"Para doon po sa nag-a-undergo na noong trial for hydroxychloroquine, maaari naman pong ituloy ito pero kailangan lang po ng close monitoring ng kanilang mga physicians and kailangan itigil kung may adverse event," said Vergeire.

(Those already undergoing trial for hydroxychloroquine can continue but it needs close monitoring from their physicians, and it needs to be stopped if there is an adverse event.)

The WHO recommended to stop clinical trials of hydroxychloroquine after  a study in The Lancet indicated that using the drug may increase the risk of death among COVID-19 patients.

Hydroxychloroquine is an antimalarial drug which was among the list of experimental drugs being used for clinical trials in the Philippines and other countries, alongside antiviral Remdesivir, antiretroviral drugs used to treat HIV Lopinavir with Ritonavir, and Interferon beta-1a drug used to treat multiple sclerosis.

The authors of the study estimated that hydroxychloroquine increased by 45% the risk of dying from coronavirus. 

Vergeire explained that the DOH allowed ongoing treatment with hydroxychloroquine to continue as not all those receiving the drug are unlikely to adversely affect all patients.

"Kasi ang adverse event na ito ay hindi naman sinasabi na maaaring mangyari sa lahat na tumatanggap ng  hydroxychloroquine kaya tayo po ay magtutuloy sa pagbibigay ng gamot na ito sa ating mga naitala nang pasyente sa ating bansa at ito po ay magkakaroon ng close monitoring from other physicians," said Vergeire.

(Adverse events do not mean it will happen to everyone who receive hydroxychloroquine, so we will continue administering this drug to patients who we already recorded in the country and we will have close monitoring from other physicians.)

Lian Buan

Lian Buan covers justice and corruption for Rappler. She is interested in decisions, pleadings, audits, contracts, and other documents that establish a trail. If you have leads, email or tweet @lianbuan.