Philippines holds off Avigan trials again

Bonz Magsambol
Philippines holds off Avigan trials again

A healthcare worker of Sta. Ana Hospital in Manila on August 8, 2020, shows to media packets of the Japanese drug Avigan as they wait for a go signal from the DOH to start clinical trial of the medicine for COVID-19. Avigan, whose generic name is Favipiravir was donated to the Health Department and will be allotted for patients who will be part of the clinical trial.

Photo by Czar Dancel/Rappler

'We were not able to start the trials yesterday due to delays in ethics review among the different hospitals,' says Health Undersecretary Maria Rosario Vergeire

The Department of Health (DOH) said that the Philippines could not start yet clinical trials of Japanese anti-flu drug Avigan – supposed to begin on September 1 – due to delays in the ethics review of participating hospitals.

Health Undersecretary Maria Rosario Vergeire said during a virtual press briefing on Wednesday, September 2, “We were not able to start the trials yesterday due to delays in ethics review among the different hospitals.”

Vergeire said that ethics boards of the 3 out of 4 participating hospitals – Sta Ana Hospital, Dr Jose N Rodriguez Memorial Hospital, and Quirino Memorial Medical Center – have yet to finish their respective reviews.

The Philippine General Hospital’s Memorandum of Agreement (MOA) is still for legal review of the University of the Philippines Manila. “Pero mayroon na silang approved ethics na review,” said Vergeire. (But they already have an approved ethics review.)

Vergeire said that the ethics review and the clinical trial agreement are needed before the country can start the trials.

The DOH earlier said that some 100 patients would take part in the trials which were initially slated on August 17. These were supposed to run for 9 months, but due to processing delays, the clinical trials were moved again to September 1. (READ: 4 hospitals identified for PH Avigan trials)

Why this matters

Clinical trials for the use of Avigan on coronavirus patients started around April, after receiving earlier positive results from China. The Philippines – which has the highest number of COVID-19 infections in Southeast Asia – first announced in May that the country would receive a free supply of the anti-flu drug from the Japanese government. 

Avigan is the brand name of the drug favipiravir. It was developed by what is now known as Fujifilm Toyama Chemical and approved for use in Japan in 2014. (READ: Avigan: Antiviral being tested for coronavirus patients)

The DOH earlier said P18 million had been allocated for the clinical trials in case of adverse events. –

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Bonz Magsambol

Bonz Magsambol is a multimedia reporter for Rappler, covering health, education, and social welfare. He first joined Rappler as a social media producer in 2016.