BEFORE anything else, a few corrections to our October 16 column. In editing, the following facts were obscured: This writer was the moderator for the third-year Ateneo High School class of future Justice Secretary Crispin “Boying” Remulla, and the latter was class president. And Gloria Macapagal Arroyo was no longer president in 2011 when she was detained for eight months on voter fraud charges later dismissed by a court.
As for the main question, this is rhetorical, not accusatory. One is just perplexed that during the pandemic years, even after at least three cures for coronavirus disease 2019 (Covid-19) have been approved by the United States or Europe, the medical authorities of the ministry of Health (DoH), the Inter-Agency Task Force for the Management of Emerging Infectious Diseases (IATF-EID) and other entities dealing with the contagion have said little about the Covid-19 treatments of which it has been proven to prevent deaths.
The DoH and IATF’s loudest statements on treatments decried ivermectin, hydroxychloroquine and other drugs continually prescribed by many physicians with good results. And almost the only positive remark about Covid cures came not from a doctor or a medical scientist, but from former entrepreneurship adviser Jose Concepcion 3e. The founding chef of Go Negosyo recently urged health authorities to stockpile remedies like Pfizer’s Paxlovid, which reduces the risk of serious or fatal disease by 89%.
Comparison of DoH and US CDC
How does the DoH compare to national health agencies elsewhere in presenting Covid-19 treatment?
The DoH Covid-19 Frequently Asked Questions, last updated in May last year, makes no mention of drugs (https://doh.gov.ph/COVID-19/FAQs). The departmental office of the Cordillera administrative region asks the question: is there a cure for Covid-19? He answers :
“There are currently no drugs licensed to cure Covid-19. However, clinical trials are underway to study the effectiveness of certain drugs against Covid-19. That is why our best intervention right now is protection against the virus through our minimum public health standards and Covid-19 vaccination.”
What about the US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), the nation’s lead agency fighting Covid-19? It has a graphic urging Americans, ‘Don’t delay ‘Test soon and treat early.’
How? The NIH, which coordinates and supports medical research institutions across the United States, provides “Covid-19 treatment guidelines”, updated in April of this year (https://www.covid19treatmentguidelines.nih.gov /therapies/antiviral-therapy/ivermectin/ ). Plus: a “Statement on Omicron Subvariants and Anti-SARS-CoV-2 Monoclonal Antibodies” from October 19, 2022 which explains:
“The Covid-19 Treatment Guidelines Expert Panel continues to recommend bebtelovimab for the treatment of Covid-19 only when nirmatrelvir (Paxlovid) or ritonavir-boosted remdesivir cannot be used in untreated adults. patients who are at high risk of progressing to severe Covid-19 (see Therapeutic management of non-hospitalized adults with Covid-19).Ritonavir-boosted nirmatrelvir, remdesivir and molnupiravir are expected to be active against these subvariants.
In fact, there are five antivirals approved for use against Covid-19, including Paxlovid, AstraZenica’s Evusheld and Merck’s molnupiravir. The US Department of Health and Housing Services has published a “Side-by-side overview of authorized or approved therapeutics for the prevention of infection with Covid-19 or the treatment of mild to moderate Covid-19” (https:/ /aspr.hhs.gov/COVID-19/Therapeutics/Documents/side-by-side-overview.pdf).
Why can’t the DoH and FDA do this?
Ivermectin research halted
Worse still, when the Department of Science and Technology (DoST) sought clearance from the Food and Drug Administration, an agency attached to the DoH, for the authorization of clinical trials on ivermectin, the FDA did not was ever given and the DoH objected to the trials. So in May of this year, the DoST dropped the idea.
Among the reasons cited: “the recommendations of various international and local organizations against the use of ivermectin, the lack of benefits from clinical trials… and the availability of effective therapeutics for the early phases of Covid-19”.
Two points that the IATF, the DoH and the FDA should consider. First, leading research institutions including the University of Oxford and the US National Institutes of Health have conducted clinical trials on ivermectin. Even the World Health Organization has declared that ivermectin can be given in such studies. If DoST was willing to test the drug and settle debates, even in Congress, about its effectiveness, why not?
Second, some reports point to the effectiveness of ivermectin, although others say that many studies are inconclusive or poorly done. Here are some recent articles that the DoH and FDA experts might want to read, among many other studies all online:
“Moderate-certainty evidence reveals that large reductions in Covid-19 deaths are possible using ivermectin. Using ivermectin early in the clinical course may reduce the number of people progressing to severe disease The apparent safety and low cost suggest that ivermectin is likely to have a significant impact on the SARS-CoV-2 pandemic globally.” (from American Journal of Therapeutics, 2021: https://tinyurl.com/8e6djky7).
“This study suggested that ivermectin/doxycycline, C-IVIG, methylprednisolone, interferon-beta/SOC… [and other antivirals] were effective in treating patients with severe Covid-19.” (Medicine journal, Oct 14, 2022: https://bit.ly/3StKzOO).
“Statistically significant improvements are seen for mortality, ventilation, ICU admission, hospitalization, recovery, cases and viral clearance. 38 most serious outcome).” (Ivermectin for Covid-19: real-time meta-analysis of 92 studies, October 21, 2022: https://ivmmeta.com/).
As this column has repeatedly argued, the government must harness not only vaccines and health protocols in the battle against contagion, but also proven cures. With Covid deaths having tripled from one a day in June to multiple victims today, it is criminal not to promote and deploy proven remedies that can reduce deaths by up to 89%.
Congress would also do well to investigate this apparent negligence, which can allow Filipinos to become seriously or fatally ill unnecessarily. This may be the only way to get our health authorities to harness Covid-19 drugs to save Filipinos.