The Philippines’ Department of Science and Technology (DoST) on September 1 said it would push through with its taxpayer-paid clinical trial on the controversial drug ivermectin, adding to the more than 800 studies that are being or have already been undertaken.
Dr Jaime Montoya, executive director of the DoST-Philippine Council for Health Research and Development, said the trial sites were already identified and funds were already transferred to the University of the Philippines Manila-Philippine General Hospital, which will conduct the study for eight months.
Montoya said the start of the trials was delayed because the methodology was changed upon the advice of the international ivermectin clinical trials consortium.
He did not identify which organisations were behind the international consortium, but Secretary of Science and Technology Fortunato de la Pena said earlier that the research team would be headed by British pharmacologist Andrew Hill.
In July, Hill already came out with a glowing assessment of 24 trials of ivermectin. Later, he withdrew the report for revision after the review of other scientists.
But according to the pro-ivermectin website, c19early.com, which also did not identify its organiser, there were 876 ongoing studies on the use of ivermectin for Covid-19. None of the studies were approved or endorsed by the World Health Organisation (WHO).
In fact, the WHO has issued a global warning against the use of ivermectin outside of clinical trials, which are usually organised and funded by the drug’s manufacturer.
But even ivermectin maker, Merck Sharp and Dohme – which reported profits of $48 billion in 2020 from its animal health products – issued its own warning in February that “our analysis has identified – no scientific basis for a potential therapeutic effect against Covid-19 from preclinical studies; no meaningful evidence for clinical activity or clinical efficacy in patients with Covid-19 disease; and a concerning lack of safety data in the majority of studies”.
“We do not believe that the data available support the safety and efficacy of ivermectin beyond the doses and populations indicated in the regulatory agency-approved prescribing information,” the drug company added.
Former Secretary of Health Dr Esperanza Cabral has questioned the government’s willingness to fund a clinical trial for ivermectin, which some politicians and doctors have been pushing as a treatment for Covid-19.
“It is not the government that should be spending 22 million pesos [$440,000] in order to prove or [disprove] that this particular substance works,” Cabral stressed.
The budget was higher than those allotted for clinical trials on a possible adjuvant treatment for Covid-19, including one for melatonin and virgin coconut oil [9.8 million pesos each], and herbal plants “tawa-tawa” and “lagundi” [around five million pesos each].
Physician Minguita Padilla, co-convener of Doctors for Truth, also questioned the DoST’s insistence on the clinical trial when hundreds are already underway and its use in India did not prevent the emergence of the Delta variant.
“Given the terrible surge in India, driven partly by its double-mutation variant, isn’t the fact that ivermectin has been a staple of Covid treatment in India since last year among the best arguments against its effectiveness against Covid-19?” Padilla said in May.
PHILIPPINE DAILY INQUIRER/ASIA NEWS NETWORK