Why is the Major Ivermectin Study in the Philippines in Continuous Delay?
In May 2021 TrialSite reported that a major ivermectin study was to start in the Philippines. Numerous announcements in various press in the Southeast Asian nation of approximately 112 million people declared the start of the vitally important study. The demand was pressing given there were spikes in SARS-CoV-2 cases in the spring and then again in the summer with the Delta variant. However, the study never started. Even the nation’s strong man president Rodrigo Duterte ordered the May to June launch of a large ivermectin study. Interestingly, by June an investigational study of Merck’s molnupiravir was off to the races finishing up this month. While TrialSite reported Merck executives were crossing Asia already selling orders to neighboring nations, the Philippines was preparing to do the same. Even the Gates Foundation was ready to make a $120 million purchase for low-and middle-income countries (LMICs). But what about that low-cost, readily available, and highly used product over the last four decades? Stuck in quicksand apparently, and conveniently so while Merck wraps up its molnupiravir study. Now the media suggests that the ivermectin study will finally start in November, but Merck was given the buffer time needed to prepare for monetization. What about Roberto Duterte’s call to action to commence the large-scale ivermectin trial in his country back in May? Apparently, more talk than action.
CNN Philippines recently reported that enrollment for the large-scale clinical trial testing ivermectin finally commences in November—November? TrialSite’s Southeast Asia correspondents have monitored this situation for about half a year. Horrible spikes occurred in April/May and then again in August/September. At this time, plenty of ivermectin was used off-label causing growing tensions between medical factions and the majority establishment who very much aligned with the World Health Organization’s (WHO) disapproval of the use of ivermectin for anything but clinical trials.
While Science and Technology Undersecretary Rowena Guevara seemingly exhibits a genuinely positive intent, recently declaring they will need 1,463 asymptomatic and non-severe COVID-19 patients to participate in the study, she has declared this over and over analogous to scenes in the movie Groundhog Day.
Confusing matters more, back in June Dr. Aileen Wang with the University of the Philippines-Philippines General Hospital reported there was no need to conduct an ivermectin study as they would simply await results from other studies. This of course contradicted President Duterte’s mandate to conduct an ivermectin trial around the same time!
Now Dr. Aileen Wang commences the ivermectin study at trial sites including quarantine facilities at Ateneo de Manila University, De La Salle University, University of the Philippines, and Makati Science High School reports CNN Philippines. CNN Philippines stated it is part of an international study led by the University of Liverpool —but the actual name of the study was omitted. Dr. Wang declared that preliminary findings could be available by the end of the year, although that seems odd given the fact that patient recruitment doesn’t start until November.
COVID-19 Vaccination & Declining Cases
According to Our World in Data, only 22% of the entire nation of 112 million people have been fully vaccinated. The country experienced a huge Delta variant-driven surge of SARS-CoV-2 cases starting in late July which spiked by mid-September. Much like many other Southeast Asia countries, the cases have fallen dramatically (although there are exceptions such as heavily vaccinated Singapore).
CNN Philippines reports that a total of eight pharmaceutical companies were authorized to conduct COVID-19 vaccine studies in the nation, and all of them have completed studies. Meanwhile, the Philippines Department of Science and Technology (DOST) continues a study concerning the safety and efficacy of mixing and matching COVID-19 vaccine products to be conducted in trial sites in the cities of Muntinlupa, Marikina, and Davao.
For example, by September 15, 2021, the country reported a 7-day average daily new cases of 21,287; as of October 23, the case count average dropped to 5,451.
Philippines COVID-19 Case & Death Rates
How does the Philippines compare to some other countries in terms of infection rate and deaths due to COVID-19? We included some of the world’s largest nations including Indonesia as well as Southeast Asian neighbor Malaysia. The findings are quite striking.
Nation Pop Cases Case/Pop Death/Pop Death/Case
India 1.4 b 34.2m 2% 0.03% 1%
USA 333.5m 46.3m 14% 0.23% 2%
Indonesia 277.3m 4.2m 2% 0.05% 3%
Brazil 213.3m 21.7m 10% 0.28% 3%
Russia 146.1m 8.2m 6% 0.16% 3%
Philippines 112m 2.8m 2% .04% 2%
Malaysia 32.7m 2.4m 7% .09% 1%
As indicated by the data, the Philippines has a markedly lower-case rate as compared to its population—the lowest out of the sample along with Indonesia. Of course, this number could be influenced by less than comprehensive public health reporting. Meanwhile, the Philippines also fares better when looking at total COVID-19 deaths to the entire population. In this category, Russia fared the worst followed by America. Finally, death to case rates range between 1% to 3% with the Philippines at 2%.
CNN Philippines reported on other studies involving local herbs and treatments including the following:
Can virgin coconut oil help treat COVID-19? According to a small study conducted last year at Laguna’s Food and Nutrition Institute, VCO may ease symptoms of suspected COVID-19 patients.
Another study investigating the use of “tawa-tawa” found 172 COVID-19 patients reported improved symptoms within three to five days.
In other news the country still awaits the launch of the Solidarity study sponsored by the World Health Organization