Metro Manila (CNN Philippines, August 12) – Clinical trials are under way to see if the tawa-tawa plant, along with other popular herbal remedies, can treat dengue.
The official in charge of the Food and Drug Administration (FDA), Eric Domingo, told CNN Philippines that a supplement containing tawa-tawa, a hairy herb that grows in the country, has proven safe for consumption and is being studying more to see if it is an effective treatment for dengue.
"Kailangan Makita Natin Talaga scientifically na mayroon siyang therapeutic effect Then, once they completed that, they can register it as a drug. But sa ngayon, registered pa lang siya as a supplement, ”said Sunday on Monday.
(Translation: We need to see scientifically that they have therapeutic effects. Then, once they complete that, they can register it as a medicine. But for now, it is only registered as a supplement).
Domingo said it would be a few more years before the clinical trials, which include tests on animals and humans, conclude.
The Department of Science and Technology (DOST) is funding clinical trials to evaluate possible medicinal herbs that fight dengue virus, raise platelet levels and reduce plasma losses.
“These herbs are derived from folkloric use and have passed safety and toxicity studies. We have asked technology developers to make it available as soon as possible after complying with all regulatory requirements. We are also coordinating with the FDA regarding this, ”DOST secretary Fortunato dela Peña said in a statement.
The students of the University of Santo Tomás won the first prize in a DOST 2012 research competition for their study on the use of tawa-tawa as a treatment for dengue.
In the study, students discovered that tawa-tawa increases platelet count and reduces bleeding time in rats that received medication to mimic dengue symptoms.
But without a clear FDA approval seal, there is still no cure or treatment available for dengue.
Dengue cases reached a maximum of five years at the end of July. About 170,000 people have contracted the life-threatening disease since January and more than 600 have died.
Domingo, who also serves as a spokesman for the Health Department, fears that the worst is yet to come, as dengue cases will generally disappear in November.
Ten regions have reached epidemic thresholds, while Region 1 and Metro Manila are already above the alert status and can reach the epidemic level soon, Domingo said.
The health department has been encouraging citizens to clean their surroundings and eliminate standing water where mosquitoes infected with dengue can lay eggs.
It has also encouraged people to allow fumigation in their neighborhoods to kill mosquitoes.
Proposals on the return of Dengvaxia to the Philippine market to prevent a future epidemic have been revived, and President Rodrigo Duterte even said he is open to lifting the ban on the controversial vaccine.
READ: DOH: Dengvaxia can prevent future dengue epidemics
Dengvaxia has been removed from the shelves due to the alleged failure of its manufacturer to comply with regulatory requirements.
However, the Secretary of Health, Francisco Duque, is expected to decide soon if he will revoke the FDA's Dengvaxia ban or keep it.