Philippines Readies for Avigan Trials, Awaits Delivery from Japan

MANILA/TOKYO – The Philippines is preparing to start the clinical trials of potential COVID-19 drug Avigan, while awaiting the arrival of the antiviral drug from Japan.

“Kasalukuyang pinag-aaralan ang protocol ng Philippine General Hospital at naghahanda po ang DOH upang ilunsad ang trial na ito ayon sa tamang proseso habang hinihintay natin ang pagdating ng gamot,” Health Undersecretary Maria Rosario Vergeire told a virtual presser Thursday.

She added, “Hinihintay pa po natin ang opisyal na pahayag mula sa pamahalaan ng Japan kung kabilang ang Philippines sa first batch ng mga bansa na makakatanggap ng gamot na ito.”

Japan is set to provide Avigan free of charge to 43 countries, which include the Philippines, starting next week in the hopes of treating patients infected with the new coronavirus.

The Japanese government is paying for the said initiative through a $1 million emergency grant aid to United Nations Office for Project Services (UNOPS), which will procure and transport the drug to recipient countries.

Foreign Minister Toshimitsu Motegi said in a press conference Friday that each of the countries will receive enough supply to treat 20 up to 100 patients for clinical research.

Japan will be provided with data obtained from clinical tests on COVID-19 patients through this collaboration.

Avigan specifically blocks RNA polymerase associated with influenza viral replication. This mechanism is expected to have an antiviral effect on (SARS-CoV-2), the new coronavirus that causes COVID-19.

Fujifilm Toyama Co. Ltd., the company that developed the drug, has successfully completed both Phase I and Phase II studies, and is now conducting Phase III to assess its safety and efficacy. Prior to this, Chinese researchers suggested that the drug, also known as Favipiravir, had been effective in treating COVID-19 patients with mild symptoms.

The Philippine government has expressed the country’s interest in participating in the clinical trials of the Japanese drug during President Rodrigo Duterte’s virtual summit with Prime Minister Shinzo Abe and other Asian leaders last month. - Florenda Corpuz