Desperate times

HIDDEN AGENDA - Mary Ann LL. Reyes (The Philippine Star) - April 11, 2021 - 12:00am

The situation is getting crazier and scarier.

Stocks of Lianhua Qingwen are running out. A few weeks back, I was able to buy this traditional Chinese herbal medicine, which was approved by the Food and Drug Administration not as a cure for COVID-19 but to treat symptoms associated with the virus like fever, colds, muscle soreness, for P150 per box of 12 capsules. Now, however, it is being sold for as high as P250 per box... that is if you can find it.

A lot of people, including the Abalos family, swear by its effectiveness. According to former Mandaluyong mayor Benjamin Abalos, Jr., he took the Chinese meds given to him by Bongbong Marcos after Abalos was infected with the disease. He says it helped cure him. In China, Linhua Qingwen is used to treat mild to moderate cases of COVID-19.

I, too, experienced COVID-19 symptoms, including loss of the taste and smell, and high fever, but took Lianhua at the onset. When I was finally tested for COVID-19, the test came out negative. A few days after the results came out, just like that, my fever was gone.

Everyone is also looking for Ivermectin. Dr. Allan Landrito used to compound Ivermectin and sell it for a measly P350 per bottle of 10 capsules, but had to stop after getting a warning from the FDA and the Department of Health. Party list Rep. Mike Defensor, who has taken Ivermectin and reportedly felt better because of it, started giving the anti-parasitic medicine for free to Quezon City residents to help prevent or treat COVID-19, but is supply was limited and the demand was huge. Former senator Juan Ponce Enrile took Ivermectin after testing positive for COVID-19 and said his symptoms disappeared.

Now, Ivercovtin (Ivermectin), which according to the label is manufactured for Pro Life Core USA and is imported from the United States, is being sold for as high as P8000 per bottle of 100 capsules.

Worse, a friend of mine told me that one of his acquaintances took Ivermectin for use in deworming horses. Fortunately, nothing bad happened to him, but he had a bout of diarrhea.

And because of the internet, one can just key in COVID-19 suggested cures and a host of possibilities will come out.

Faviparavir, which is an antiviral medicine used to treat influenza in Japan and is said to be a new and emerging option against COVID-19 and sold under the brand name Avigan, is even being sold online without prescription for P12,000 per box of 40 tablets. Clinical trials are being conducted in the Philippines for Avigan as a cure for COVID-19.

Even hydroxychloroquine, which was being tested as a COVID-19 treatment, can now be bought online here, albeit at a high price.

And then we also have high doses of Vitamin C (sodium ascorbate) with zinc, Vitamin B complex, Vitamin D3, melatonin, said to be given to COVID-19 patients, selling like hotcakes as precautionary (preventive) measures against the virus, more specifically to boost immunity. I myself make it a point to take most of them everyday, including extra virgin coconut oil and lots of sunlight, and of course Ivermectin, until I get vaccinated.

Many are still waiting for their turn to receive the COVID-19 vaccines. In the meantime, they cannot afford to wait without some form of protection, even though unproven.

In an interview on radio, former senator Enrile says survival is the most basic instinct. And part of that survival instinct is for humans to not just watch as people around them are infected with the virus and die, but to get any weapon available and within their means to fight. People will not purposely ingest something which they know will be bad for them, and so after listening to or viewing videos of testimonies, though anecdotal, about some drug or medicine that will prevent or cure COVID-19, they will take it.

Desperate times call for desperate measures. The FDA keeps saying that its hands are tied because it only acts when there is an application for emergency use authorization or compassionate use permit for unregistered drugs like Ivermectin. It says it cannot recommend any particular drug or medicine, but merely licenses its use. Our Department of Science and Technology (DOST) should take the lead in looking for all possibilities against COVID-19, but since research takes time, the department can start by taking a look at off-label drugs and use whatever international studies there are available to make its recommendation at the soonest possible time.

Under our Intellectual Property Code, the director general of the Intellectual Property Office can issue a license to exploit a patented invention without the permission of the patent holder, either by manufacture or through parallel importation, in times of public emergency.

Our government agencies should not focus on protocols or why things cannot be done. Even former Supreme Court chief justice Diosdado Peralta earlier said that while the Constitution and the laws are not suspended in times of emergencies, with the situation still rapidly evolving and an atmosphere of uncertainty pervading, “we must do everything we can.” Our government should act with urgency and focus on what can be done to help the people at the soonest possible time, even if it means bending back a little, fast-tracking applications... say for emergency use authorization of Ivermectin as a COVID-19 preventive drug. If we can issue EUAs for the use of COVID-19 vaccines, even if the clinical trials are still going on, then why can’t we do the same for Ivermectin? In issuing an EUA, the regulatory body (FDA) determines the known and potential benefits vis a vis the known and potential risks.

If there are no known potential risks to taking Ivermectin in small doses and the potential benefits are huge, then the answer is clear. People are buying Ivermectin from all possible sources and our government can help a lot if it immediately allows someone to import the drug and compound it here, allow it to be sold to anyone with some kind of warning on the label.



For comments, e-mail at mareyes@philstarmedia.com

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