Approval for coconut oil clinical trials for COVID-19 patients in PGH expected this week — DOST

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Metro Manila (CNN Philippines, April 30) — The Department of Science and Technology said it is hoping to get the green light from the ethics board within the week to conduct virgin coconut oil clinical trials on coronavirus patients at the Philippine General Hospital.

"Sa PGH po, inaasahan namin na bago mag Lunes, magkaroon na ng approval ng ethics board; pero ready na po sila du'n sa gagawing [clinical] trials," DOST Secretary Fortunato Dela Peña said in a public briefing Thursday.

[Translation: As for PGH, we are hoping to get the approval of the ethics committee before Monday of next week; but the health workers there are already equipped for the clinical trials.]

The DOST likewise noted that it is now preparing for its first set of trials at the Santa Rosa Community Hospital in Laguna. It said it has just concluded the training of the medical personnel on the site.

"Aabot po ng 28 days [bago makapagsimula], kasi nung Martes lang po natapos 'yung training ng mga personnel sa hospital — kasama na po 'yung dietitians, medical technologists," Dela Peña said.

[Translation: It may take 28 days before we begin, as we have just finished the training of the hospital personnel last Tuesday, including dietitians, medical technologists.]

"Ngayon po, ongoing ang enrollment ng mga pasyente. Nais po naming makabuo ng 45 participating patients doon sa Santa Rosa, at 45 din naman po na hindi bibigyan ng VCO, para ma-compare," he added.

[Translation: Enrollment for patients is now ongoing there in Sta. Rosa. We are looking at testing 45 patients who will take the virgin coconut oil, and another 45 who will not, to compare the results.]

An agreement with all the parties involved is already in place, Dela Peña highlighted.

The DOST said it is working hand in hand with the local government and some departments, which include its arm agency, the Food and Nutrition Research Institute, and the Philippine Coconut Authority.

The FNRI takes charge of the menu and research work, while the PCA provides supplies of unbranded virgin coconut oil, it said.

The PCA also helps fund the program, according to the DOST.

"Nagpapasalamat [naman] kami sa local government ng Sta. Rosa, sa pamamahala ni Mayor [Arlene] Arcillas, dahil sila po ang nag-ooperate ng ospital," Dela Peña said.

[Translation: We thank the local government of Sta. Rosa, under the leadership of Mayor Arlene Arcillas, because they are the ones heading the operations in the hospital.]

Meanwhile, the chief said the DOST has sent some samples of the derivatives of the virgin coconut oil to a testing facility abroad — which has a collection of the SARS-COV-2, or the virus that causes COVID-19 — to further test its effectiveness.

"Kailangang makita natin kung sa clinical trials na 'yan ay malakas ang aksyon, at mapapahina o mapapababa po ng ating mga materyales na pinadala doon 'yung infectivity po ng virus nila," he said.

[Translation: We need to see whether such materials have strong or weak effects on the infectivity of the virus.]

Derivatives of the virgin coconut oil include lauric acid, among others.

The DOST received its first ethics committee nod for the clinical trials on April 24.

Earlier this month, it said it would start looking into the possible benefits of the virgin coconut oil on COVID-19 patients.

In February, Ateneo De Manila University Professor Emeritus Fabian Antonio Dayrit and Florida-based Dr. Mary Newport proposed a clinical study on virgin coconut oil as possible COVID-19 treatment.

The Philippines now has 8,488 confirmed coronavirus cases, including 1,043 recoveries and 568 fatalities.