Study on Philippines' 1st dengue cure expected to be completed by 2022 —project head
The study on Philippines' first dengue drug, which is also a cheaper cure against the disease, is expected to be finished by 2022, according to the project's team leader.
In 2019, the team of Dr. Rita Grace Alvero of the Pharmalytics Corporation, with the support of Department of Science and Technology's Philippine Council for Health Research and Development (DOST-PCHRD), completed Phase 1 of clinical trials for their dengue capsules after it yielded results that it is safe to use on humans.
After their study went on a hiatus due to the COVID-19 pandemic, Alvero said they finally received a go signal to proceed with Phases 2 and 3 clinical trials for the dengue medicine this year.
"We expect the study to be completed by the second quarter of 2022," Alvero, also the program's head, told GMA News Online in an e-mail exchange.
She pointed out that Phase 2 will test safety in use in subjects infected with dengue while Phase 3 will compare the "efficacy versus standard treatment."
"As there is no current treatment for dengue, we combined phases 2 and 3 by comparing two dose levels versus placebo," Alvero also explained.
These dengue capsules, if proven effective, are expected to be more cost-effective than treatment of dengue in hospitals, Alvero said.
"It will be cheaper than the combined cost of hospitalization, ICU [intensive care unit] stay, blood transfusions and the lost income of caretakers during the illness. For those with financial challenges, this will offer hope and relief," said Alvero.
If their studies showed that the capsules' efficacy against dengue is optimized, Alvero said they can start with the scaled up production of the drug.
How the program started
Before they conducted the clinical trials, Alvero said they first had a program with DOST that started in 2012 where they identified herbal plants that can potentially counteract the mosquito-borne disease.
She said the availability of medicinal plants and the lack of treatment against dengue prompted her team to launch this anti-dengue program.
"In 2012, we evaluated the top health problems in the country and decided to focus on Dengue because of the magnitude of the problem, the lack of treatment options and the availability of herbal plants that can potentially cure the disease," she said.
It was a daunting task for them as it took Alvero's three years to study these herbal plants and developed a medicine in capsule form. After this, they tested the medicine on laboratory rats and then on humans.
Data from Department of Health showed that dengue deaths and cases went down by 50% from 49,135 cases and 179 deaths linked to dengue to 21,478 cases and 80 dengue-related deaths reported in the same period in 2021
At this rate, Alvero's team could further decrease dengue cases and deaths in the Philippines. —KBK, GMA News