Avigan trials finally start

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    CLINICAL trials for the Japanese anti-flu drug, Avigan, as a potential treatment for the coronavirus disease (COVID-19), have finally started although there are only eight participants, according to the Department of Health.

    The trials, which began on November 20, were originally set to start last August.

    Vaccine czar Carlito Galvez Jr., meanwhile, said the country is set to sign today a supply agreement for AstraZeneca’s potential COVID-19 vaccine, the first such deal.

    Galvez said the deal would be for two million doses. However, Joey Concepcion, a government business adviser, said the private sector was aiming to procure more than that.

    Health Undersecretary Maria Rosario Vergeire said three of the patients in the Avigan trial are from the Philippine General Hospital, another three from the Dr. Jose N. Rodriguez Memorial Hospital, and two from the Quirino Memorial Medical Center. The Sta. Ana Hospital has yet to recruit a participant.

    Vergeire said the DOH is hoping to get more participants, especially after the department revised the criteria for participants. The revisions include allowing non-severe COVID-19 patients with or without pneumonia, as well as those not on high-flow oxygen support.

    The DOH also decided to raise the number of sample size to 144 from 96 patients.

    “Hopefully, in the coming days and weeks, we can reach the number of samples that we need to complete this trial,” said Vergeire.

    The Avigan trials were set to start in August after the delivery of the Avigan tablets, good for 100 patients, by the Japanese Embassy in Manila. – With Jocelyn Montemayor and Reuters