Off-label drugs may now be used in PH coronavirus clinical trials – DOH

MANILA, Philippines – The Department of Health (DOH) announced on Sunday, April 26, that off-label drugs may now be used in clinical trials in the Philippines to test possible cures for the coronavirus.

During the department's regular afternoon briefing, Health Undersecretary Maria Rosario Vergeire said the DOH is coordinating with the World Health Organization (WHO) for the arrival and storage of medication that are part of the global solidarity trial which aims to find a treatment for COVID-19.

These off-label drugs, explained Vergeire, are used to treat other diseases, but will be tested by hospitals and doctors on patients in the solidarity trial to see if they can help against the coronavirus.

Vergeire noted, however, that these clinical trials should be conducted with the proper guidance of a licensed doctor.

"Habang hinihintay po ang pagdating ng shipment, maaari po nating gamitin ang mga gamot na available na mula sa HIV at malaria control programs ng DOH...ayon sa tamang gabay ng lisensyadong doktor," said Vergeire.

(While waiting for the arrival of the shipment [of these drugs], we may now use the drugs that are available from the HIV and malaria control programs of the DOH...with the proper guidance of a licensed doctor.)

Vergeire mentioned litonavir, ritonavir, chloroquine, and hydroxychloroquine as among the drugs that will be used in the solidarity trial. In an interview with DZMM on Sunday, Vergeire also listed remdesivir, lopinavir combined with ritonavir, and the last two drugs plus interferon beta.

In a Facebook post on Sunday, the DOH said 21 hospitals will take part in the solidarity trial. Participating patients will also be made to sign consent forms.

The health undersecretary was also asked in Sunday's DOH briefing about the United States Food and Drug Administration's warning on hydroxychloroquine and its adverse effects on the heart and other body parts.

In response, Vergeire said patients will first go through screening procedures, and qualified patients will then be monitored by investigators and doctors to make sure that the treatments like hydroxychloroquine will not be harmful. 

As of Sunday, at least 7,579 coronavirus cases have been confirmed in the Philippines. Among them, 501 have died and 862 have recovered. –