The country is set to start clinical trials of an antiviral medicine, Avigan, on persons infected with the coronavirus disease 2019 (Covid-19), a health official said Wednesday.

In a virtual public briefing, Department of Health (DOH) Undersecretary Maria Rosario Vergeire said the department is preparing for the clinical trial of Avigan, whose generic name is favipiravir, as it coordinates with the Japanese government for the supply of the drug.

“‘Yung ating trial for Avigan, inaayos na po ‘yung protocol, kumukuha na po tayo ng (We’re working on the trial protocol for Avigan and we’re already securing) clearances coming from different institutions,” Vergeire said.

The Japanese government would be providing enough supply of Avigan for some 100 patients who will be chosen for the trial, she said.

“Pipili po tayo ng ospital na isasali natin sa trial na ito at sa mga ospital na iyon, magkakaroon tayo ng mga protocol kung paano naman natin pipiliin ang mga pasiyente. Ang importante dito ay (We’ll choose hospitals for the trials and from there we’ll have a protocol on the selection of patients. What’s important here is) because this is a clinical trial, the informed consent will be there,” Vergeire said.

While there is no solid evidence that Avigan is effective against Covid-19, in Japan, the drug showed some promise in treating Covid-19 infected patients as some of them recovered after taking it.

However, health experts cautioned against its use because the drug has one dangerous potential side effect — birth defects.

“Nais din namin hilingin sa mga nagsasagawa ng trials at sa publiko na lubos na mag-ingat sa paggamit ng Avigan dahil ayon sa mga datos, ang Avigan ay hindi ligtas gamitin ng mga buntis (We’re requesting those conducting the trials and the public to take caution in taking Avigan because various data show that Avigan is not safe for pregnant women),” Vergeire said. (PNA)