PH, Japan in talks on studying potential COVID-19 cure

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The Philippines and Japan have begun discussing clinical trials involving an anti-flu drug which may be used against the coronavirus disease, the Department of Health disclosed on Saturday. (FILE PHOTO)

Metro Manila (CNN Philippines, April 25) — The Philippines and Japan have begun discussing clinical trials involving an anti-flu drug which may be used against the coronavirus disease, the Department of Health disclosed on Saturday.

Health Spokesperson Ma. Rosario Vergeire said the agreement between the countries is still at the "initial stages of coordination." The Philippines and Japan are planning to study and test the Avigan drug, which is designed to combat influenza, she said.

"Meron din po tayong trial na sisimulan... Ito po'y isang gamot naman, which is Avigan; pero nasa initial stages of coordination pa lang po tayo," said Vergeire during the 'Laging Handa' briefing of government officials.

[Translation: We also have a trial we will work on. This is for a drug, the Avigan but we are still at the initial stages of coordination.]

A clinical trial is a study on how a medicine affects patients who have a certain condition. Earlier, officials said President Rodrigo Duterte spoke with Japan Prime Minister Shinzo Abe, saying the Philippines is ready to join a clinical trial for Avigan.

The country has been working on local and joint international efforts on finding a drug which can cure COVID-19. The University of the Philippines and the Philippine General Hospital got the go signal to start 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.

Vergeire said UP already started its tests and is seeing good results so far.

"Naumpisahan sa ibang mga pasyente, at meron ho silang mga ni-rereport na maganda; ngunit hindi pa rin ho 'yan enough evidence na kumpleto para masabi na talagang epektibo," she said.

[Translation: The trial has started on some patients and they have reported good news but that is still not enough evidence to say that it is indeed effective.]

The Philippines is also participating in a "Solidarity" clinical trial by the World Health Organization to check if four drugs - antiviral Remdesivir, antimalarial drug Chloroquine or Hydroxychloroquine, antiretroviral drugs used to treat HIV Lopinavir with Ritonavir, and Lopinavir with Ritonavir plus Interferon beta-1a - can treat COVID-19. Over 100 countries with more than 1,200 patients are part of the WHO trial.