Amid pressure from groups and lawmakers, Health Secretary Francisco Duque III said on Wednesday, June 9, that he would like to meet with a medical group to discuss the “features” of the controversial drug ivermectin as a possible treatment for COVID-19.
During the House committee on good government’s third hearing on the alleged red tape in the processes of the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) and the Department of Health (DOH), lawmakers again urged the DOH to have a positive recommendation on the use of the anti-parasitic drug to treat COVID-19.
“We will try to make some clear review of submissions patungkol sa ivermectin. That’s why I’d like to meet with the officers of the CDC Philippines (Concerned Doctors and Citizens of the Philippines) so that I can sit down and take a look at all the features of ivermectin,” Duque said.
The health secretary made the statement to reassure SAGIP Representative Rodante Marcoleta, who is not a health professional, that the DOH is not closing its doors on the potential of ivermectin as COVID-19 treatment.
Marcoleta also hit local experts in the country on why they did not do anything to counter the “total evidence” of the efficacy of ivermectin, after they recommended against the use of the drug. (READ: FDA warns against using Ivermectin drug for COVID-19 treatment)
Duque vows for ‘deeper’ review
Meanwhile, House Deputy Speaker Bernadette Herrera-Dy, a known advocate of ivermectin, also urged Duque to take a “closer and serious” look at ivermectin.
In response, Duque said that the DOH would facilitate a “deeper” review of the studies and data of the clinical trials done in other countries. He added the DOH would ask the help of the Department of Foreign Affairs (DFA) in coordinating with other countries that conducted studies on ivermectin.
“Will identify those countries and through the DFA we can ask them, the government of these countries to enter into some kind of agreement for them to disclose to us the real data or outcomes of their clinical trial studies,” he added.
Marcoleta, together with Anakalusagan Representative Mike Defensor, led a distribution of ivermectin in Quezon City in April, which was met with criticism due to “spurious prescriptions.” Both have been advocating for the use of ivermectin as COVID-19 treatment despite warnings from experts here and abroad.
As experimental treatment for COVID-19, ivermectin is allowed by the FDA only in two instances: if the medical facility dispensing the drug has secured a compassionate special permit, or if a doctor has prescribed it and the drug is compounded by a pharmacist according to the prescription.
On May 7, the FDA issued a certificate of product registration (CPR) to a local company to register ivermectin for human anti-parasitic treatment.
A CPR is a certificate issued by the FDA that would allow a product to be commercially available in the market. The FDA, however, said that a medical prescription is still needed when buying the drug.
There is an ongoing public debate over the use of ivermectin to treat COVID-19. Some doctors recommend it, and some patients share how it had been beneficial to them. Other medical experts, meanwhile, issue stern warnings against its use in treating the deadly disease.
Amid the debates, President Rodrigo Duterte ordered the Department of Science and Technology (DOST) and DOH to study the use of ivermectin as a possible treatment against COVID-19. He gave the order a week after the DOST itself said there was no need for local studies, as there were ongoing trials abroad whose results could inform decisions in the Philippines. – Rappler.com