The Japanese government has agreed to provide the country a free supply of an anti-flu drug to study if it could treat COVID-19, the Department of Health said Tuesday.
“Nais po nating magpasalamat sa bansang Japan sapagkat sila ay nagexpress na sila ay handa tayong bigyan ng libreng supply ng anti-flu drug na Avigan,” said Health Spokesperson Ma. Rosario Vergeire in the daily DOH virtual briefing.
[Translation: We wish to thank Japan because they have expressed that they are ready to give us free supply of the anti-flu drug Avigan.]
Japan Prime Minister Shinzo Abe has been touting Avigan – which is the Japanese brand name for favipiravir – for its potential to cure the coronavirus disease. The drug has been known to be effective against coronavirus in China, CNN reported.
Japan earlier said it plans to provide the drug for free to 20 countries.
Vergeire said clinical trials on the efficacy of the medicine will begin once they receive the supply. However, the DOH cautioned against its use on pregnant women as studies mentioned it can cause side effects such as birth defects.
“[Ang] pagsasagawa ng clinical trial ay sapagkat tayo ay ‘di pa tayo ganap na nakakasiguro sa mga benepisyo ng nasabing gamot ngunit ganoon pa man patuloy nating gagalugarin ang pagkakataon na ito,” she said.
[Translation: We are conducting clinical trials since we are not sure yet of the benefits of the said medicine, however, we will still make use of this opportunity.]
A clinical trial means testing the effects of a drug on patients suffering the same condition. The country is also participating in a “Solidarity” clinical trial led by the World Health Organization on antiviral Remdesivir, antimalarial drug Chloroquine or Hydroxychloroquine, antiretroviral drugs used to treat HIV Lopinavir with Ritonavir, and Lopinavir with Ritonavir plus Interferon beta-1a.
The University of the Philippines and the Philippine General Hospital also started a clinical trial on convalescent plasma therapy, which involves using the blood plasma of a patient who has recovered from COVID-19 and transfusing it to another patient, hoping that the antibodies the recovered patient had produced would help the sick patient get better.