The Philippines has been fighting the COVID-19 pandemic for almost a year and a half now. As of July 2021, approximately 10% of the country's population has received their first dose1 of a vaccine, while nearly 6% have been fully vaccinated.
The country's vaccination efforts are still far from hitting the 70% target. With this, some people take matters into their own hands by turning to alternative treatments to help aid COVID patients.
Do these treatments work? Read on below to find out the most popular drugs for treating COVID-19 in the Philippines.
Popular COVID-19 Treatments in the Philippines
Remdesivir is an antiviral medication that is authorized and used as COVID-19 treatment in more than 50 countries2. A recent study3 showed that it could help reduce the duration of illness among people with a high risk of severe infection.
In contrast, the World Health Organization panel4 concluded that there is no evidence about the benefits of the drug, "[Remdesivir] had little or no effect on overall mortality, initiation of ventilation, and duration of hospital stay in hospitalized patients."
Meanwhile, the Philippine Society for Microbiology and Infectious Diseases (PSMID) has conditional recommendations in regard to the usage of remdesivir5. They only recommend adding this to a COVID-19 patient's treatment if their oxygen saturation is less than 94% or they require oxygen supplementation.
Lianhua Qingwen is a Chinese treatment capsule used to treat SARS and other viral influenzas in China during the 2002 to 2003 pandemic. Nowadays, China uses the drug as part of its standard therapy in treating mild to moderate COVID-19 patients, according to an Associated Press news article6.
In a press release7 by the Department of Health (DOH), the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) has approved the English version of Lianhua Qingwen, but only as a traditional herbal product for treating other viral respiratory illnesses, not COVID-19.
Since the FDA doesn't endorse Lianhua Qingwen as a treatment for COVID-19, PSMID doesn't recommend Lianhua Qingwen8 as well due to the low quality of evidence presented in trials.
Avigan, the brand name for favipiravir, is a Japanese antiviral drug manufactured by a Fujifilm Holdings Corp. subsidiary. People see the drug as a potential treatment for COVID-19 since there are positive results in mild cases from China9.
Currently, favipiravir10 is undergoing clinical trials among four hospitals in NCR; hence, the PSMID has insufficient evidence to form a recommendation.
Virgin Coconut Oil (VCO)
Last year, research11 was conducted to determine if VCO can help alleviate COVID-19 symptoms. Early results proved that VCO could reduce mild and suspected COVID-19 symptoms among patients. However, further tests on severe COVID patients are still needed to make a solid recommendation.
Since VCO trials are still ongoing, there is no available data yet for PSMID to recommend its use as COVID-19 treatment.
Convalescent plasma therapy is a treatment wherein blood from recovered COVID-19 patients is donated to other patients to help them boost their immune systems. A machine separates blood cells from the donated blood during the process, then plasma and antibodies will remain.
In August 2020, the U.S. FDA gave emergency authorization12 to use convalescent plasma therapy to treat COVID-19 patients. Be that as it may, experts are still debating its effectiveness and potential side effects.
While there is some evidence that convalescent plasma13 helps with COVID-19 treatment, clinical trials are still needed for PSMID to support its use.
Colchicine is an anti-inflammatory drug for gout treatment. With a decreased death risk rate of 21%, colchicine has reportedly been an effective treatment for COVID-19 in Canada14.
In January 2021, the DOH said they were studying the use of colchicine for severe COVID-19 cases, but they have yet to publish any data. As of March 2021, PSMID doesn't recommend colchicine as a treatment for COVID-1915.
Ivermectin is one of the most talked-about alternatives. It's an anti-parasite medication for animals that some advocates say can be used to treat COVID-19. However, studies16 have shown that there is no benefit for its use.
At the time of writing, both the FDA and PSMID do not recommend Ivermectin as a treatment for COVID-19.
Common Non-Pharmacologic Interventions for COVID-19
Non-pharmaceutical interventions are health measures recommended to the public to prevent COVID transmission. What are the common practices we use to control and prevent the spread of coronavirus?
People use cloth masks to prevent respiratory droplets from spreading. These droplets are released whenever you talk, cough, or sneeze. When you wear a cloth mask17, you also prevent yourself from inhaling these droplets.
Your cloth mask should be tightly woven with multiple layers to be considered effective. A multi-layered cotton fabric mask would be best.
Physical and social distancing means staying away from or limiting your physical contact with others as much as possible. You don't know who might be infected, so staying at home or keeping a 6-feet distance would help prevent virus transmission.
You can do this by limiting your trips to the grocery store or opting for online medicine delivery rather than visiting the pharmacy.
Your shoes are a common virus carrier. People believe footbaths can lower virus transmission because footbaths disinfect shoes before you enter an establishment. However, foothbaths are not recommended by the PSMID18 as a means of prevention and control for COVID-19 transmission.
Inhalation of droplets is still the most effective way to get infected by COVID-19, but infected surfaces also have the potential of spreading the virus. Health professionals recommend disinfecting high-touch surfaces with bleach or 70% alcohol daily. If you're at the workplace, disinfect before the shift, intermittently during, and after.
Face Mask Plus Face Shield
A face shield is a curved plastic material worn like a visor. The PSMID19 suggests using a combination of face mask and protective eyewear (face shield or goggles) when going outdoors, especially in areas with sustained community transmission.
As we move forward with the pandemic, multiple discoveries will surface. Research on COVID-19 treatments will evolve. So, stay informed with the latest findings to help you make the right decisions and even save a life.
Check out our COVID-19 PH Resource Center to stay updated with COVID-related information in the Philippines.