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Avigan trials in the Philippines to start August 10 —DOH

Clinical trials in the Philippines of the Japanese anti-viral flu drug Avigan will start on August 10, Health Undersecretary Maria Rosario Vergeire said Friday, as the search for possible COVID-19 treatment continues.

In an interview on Unang Hirit, Vergeire said all is set for the trial to begin, after the Philippines received around 199,000 Avigan tablets from Japan for the trials.

"We have identified site na hospital kung saan gagamitin ito. We will already start on August 10 for this Avigan trial so abangan na lang po natin, nandito na naman po 'yung mga gamot," she said.

But in a virtual forum later in the day, Vergeire said the August 10 date is still tentative.

"Yung una sinabi namin August 10 tayo mag-start pero hindi pa kasi namin, hindi pa napa-finalize 'yung legal documents natin so we just want to inform everybody kapag talagang final na, kung talagang mag-uumpisa na tayo, but it's going to happen soon," she said.

Avigan is the brand name of the drug favipiravir. It was developed by what is now known as Fujifilm Toyama Chemical and approved for use in Japan in 2014.

But in Japan, it is only approved for use in flu outbreaks that aren't being effectively addressed by existing medications. It is not available on the market and can only be manufactured and distributed at the request of the Japanese government.

"Avigan has been approved by FDA for long kasi ginagamit na ho talaga iyan sa flu, so 'yan naman ay meron na. Hindi po ng FDA natin but FDA ng Japan," she said.

"Kaya pagpasok dito wala na ho tayo masyadong regulatory processes na mangyayari because it's been approved [already] but this trial has been approved by FDA and ethics review board."

According to a statement from the Japanese Embassy in Manila, Avigan tablets will be tested on 100 patients in the Philippines and that the donation of the drug is part of its emergency grant aid to countries severely affected by COVID-19.

Each recipient government, it said, "has acknowledged Avigan's proper usage and prescription in view of its known adverse side effects."

Clinical trials of Avigan came amid spike in COVID-19 infection in the Philippines, which is now a virus hot spot in Southeast Asia, overtaking Indonesia Thursday with 119,460 infections.

President Rodrigo Duterte had reported to Congress in May that some P18 million will be spent by the Department of Health (DOH) for clinical trials on Avigan on treating patients with COVID-19. —with Dona Magsino/KBK/LDF, GMA News