Clinical trial use of hydroxychloroquine for COVID-19 treatment to resume in PH

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The clinical trial use of hydroxychloroquine in treating COVID-19 patients will resume in the Philippines after the World Health Organization (WHO) lifted the temporary stoppage of the malaria drug in its multi-country trial, the Department of Health (DOH) said on Thursday.

“Ili-lift na yung pag-stop, at itutuloy natin ang gamutan dito sa hydroxychloroquine (We’ll lift the suspension, and we’ll continue treating people with hydroxychloroquine.),” Health Undersecretary Maria Rosario Vergeire said during a media briefing Thursday.

The Philippine Health Department halted the trial use of the medicine about a week ago as it followed the WHO directive to momentarily stop using the off-label drug because of its potentially serious side effects, including heart arrhythmia.

Hydroxychloroquine was initially made to treat malaria and normally used to treat arthritis, but initial studies have supposedly shown that it is a promising treatment for COVID-19, which emerged late last year from China.

“Actually hanggang alas dose ng hatinggabi, nag-meeting kagabi ang executive committee ng WHO, kasama yung mga proponents natin dito sa Solidarity Trial, para mapagdiskusyunan at maintindihan nila ang hydroxychloroquine na sitwasyon bago nila binigay yung statement (Actually, the executive committee of the WHO and the proponents for the Solidarity Trial here in the Philippines met last night until midnight to discuss this issue before giving out a statement.),” Vergeire said.

“And they now have decided, it is okay, and we will now include hydroxychloroquine,” she added.

Vergeire said the public should not think that the concerned organizations are being inconsistent since the COVID-19 situation is evolving.

She said decisions may change, based on new evidence, since the virus was just recently discovered and is still being studied.

“We stand by the position that this is the evolving nature of this disease. And decisions may really be changed quite fast because of these new (pieces of) evidence that come out every day,” she said.

“Tayo ay makikinig. Tayo ay susunod at tayo ay magtutuloy ulit nitong hydroxychloroquine (We listen. We follow, and now we will continue using hydroxychloroquine.),” Vergeire said.

Vergeire defended the WHO’s shifting directives as she noted that SARS-CoV-2—the coronavirus that causes COVID-19—is a relatively new virus the experts have yet to be familiar with.

“Maaring maraming mga tao na magsabi inconsistent, maraming mga tao magsabi pabalikbalik at pabago-bago pero kami we stand by the position na ito’ yung evolving nature of the disease, and decisions may really be changed quite fast because of these new evidence that we get everyday said. (There may be people who will say that we are inconsistent, many people may say that keep on changing protocols but we stand by the position of the evolving nature of the disease and decisions can really be changed quite fast because of these new evidence that we get every day.),” Vergeire said.

Hydroxychloroquine is one of the four drug and drug combinations being used for the WHO’s Solidarity Trial that attempts to find a cure for COVID-19. The others are remdesivir, lopinavir and ritonavir combined, and two drugs plus interferon beta.

The WHO decided to resume using hydroxychloroquine on June 3.

Dr. Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus, director-general of the WHO, said during a briefing that after reviewing the information, they found “no reasons to modify the trial,” which, so far, covers more than 3,500 patients from 35 countries./Stacy Ang

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