POSTSCRIPT / June 12, 2022 / Tuesday

By FEDERICO D. PASCUAL JR.

Philippine STAR Columnist

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What drugs is BBM taking for Covid-19?

Malacañang may want to tell the people the medicines President Ferdinand “Bongbong” Marcos Jr. took, and has been taking, to beat back the Covid-19 virus and its variants that have infected him twice, first in 2020 and again last Friday.

President Ferdinand Marcos Jr. has tested positive for Covid-19 and has cancelled his in-person meetings. Photo: AP

Plain folks may not be able to afford the same drugs and medical care given to the President, but the matter of affordability is beside the point.

Taxpayers who are the ones paying for the President’s care and treatment are entitled to know what drugs saved him. The details would be useful to those who may also test positive despite being fully vaccinated like Marcos and taking precautionary measures.

Information on his medicines should not be held back on the excuse that they involve security or privacy matters. Disclosure will not endanger his life nor cause a stampede at drugstores as they are sold only upon proper prescription or for use only in hospitals.

While Marcos appears to have weathered the repeated infections, a big number of Filipinos succumbed to the pandemic during the same period.

On Sunday, the good news from Malacañang was that the President’s condition has improved and that he has been working while directing officials online, including on their ramping up of the vaccination of school children to hasten their return to face-to-face classes.

Press Secretary Trixie Cruz Angeles quoted Marcos’ physician, Dr. Samuel Zacate, as saying that the President, who remained in isolation, had only mild symptoms with “no fever, no loss of taste and smell sensation.”

Meanwhile, the Covid-19 resurgence noticed lately adds urgency to the appointment of a knowledgeable health secretary. The post is still vacant.

We’ve been waiting also for a respected epidemiologist to explain away the claim of some quarters that the immunity gained from non-traditional mRNA vaccines wanes relatively fast, requiring frequent boosters.

A related claim is that children who had already been exposed to the pandemic have developed natural immunity which is longer-lasting and should not be replaced by short-lived immunity from mRNA vaccines. The vaccination of children has also been questioned.

Some sectors citing scientific data claim that the risks of infection among children (and even adults) may come from the mRNA vaccines themselves as they displace the natural immunity developed by their exposure to the viruses.

Yesterday at 22:51 GMT, on a list of 230 countries and territories monitored on world0meters.info, the Philippines ranked No. 37 with 3,718,467 total cases, 2,018 new cases, 13,818 active cases, 33,047 cases/1M population, 60,640 total deaths (one yesterday), and 539 deaths/1M pop.

Among the 10 members of the Association of Southeast Asian Nations,  the Philippines ranked fourth in the number of cases, below Indonesia, Malaysia, and Thailand. It used to be second to Indonesia, a densely populated archipelago that has topped the list.

• Covid drugs taken by Trump

Regarding our asking what drugs President Marcos has been taking, we recall that when US President Trump tested positive for Covid-19 on Oct. 1, 2020, the American public was told what medicines he was being given to ease symptoms and shorten his recovery time.

As no drug had been approved at that time for curing Covid-19, even medicines not yet available to the public but had promising curative or preventive qualities in clinical trials were used. Some of those reported by the media were:

• Remdesivir was first given on Oct. 2 and continued for five days. Granted emergency use authorization (EUA) by the Food and Drug Administration on May 1, the intravenous drug works by targeting the system that coronaviruses use to replicate themselves. The FDA later expanded its EUA for all hospitalized patients.

• Dexamethasone, a steroid commonly used to treat asthma, rheumatoid arthritis, and certain cancer, was given to him on Oct. 1 in response to his blood oxygen levels dropping twice to 93 percent. It is typically recommended for hospitalized patients who need oxygen or are on ventilators. A cautionary note is that steroids hamper the body’s immune system.

• Regeneron’s monoclonal antibody was given to Trump in a single 8-gram dose on Oct. 2 in a cocktail called REGN-COV2. It was then the highest dose of the drug being tested in late-stage clinical trials.

• Zinc which helps the immune system fight outside bacteria and viruses was also used. But the FDA has warned drug firms that there was no evidence that zinc, an essential mineral naturally present in some foods and available as a dietary supplement, helps fight Covid-19.

• Vitamin D was also given to Trump. The vitamin is good for bone health and helps reduce inflammation, but the FDA warned there was no evidence that it directly reduces the risk of Covid-19. It added that the vitamin should not be sold as a Covid-19 treatment.

• Famotidine, the generic name for Pepcid, is used to treat ulcers, heartburn, and indigestion, and reduces acidity in the stomach. A clinical trial testing the drug in hospitalized Covid-19 patients in New York was not able to recruit enough patients to properly evaluate its impact.

• Melatonin, commonly used to treat insomnia, could also help Covid-19 patients with diabetes and obesity, according to a CNN report. It is said to decrease viral infections in obese and diabetic patients.

• Aspirin, commonly given to older patients to prevent heart disease, and also as a painkiller, was also used. Its ability to reduce the risk of blood clotting makes it useful among patients with blood-clotting problems triggered by Covid-19.

(First published in the Philippine STAR of July 12, 2022)

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