FALSE: PH-developed COVID-19 cure already approved

Claim: A cure for COVID-19 called Fabunan Antiviral Injection has already been approved by the government. The drug was developed by a Filipino doctor in Zambales.

The almost 9-minute-long video stitched together a video of a man named Mario Marcos talking about Fabunan Antiviral Injection, and a clip from President Rodrigo Duterte’s late-night address on April 13 when he was talking about a possible cure being developed.

Throughout the video, the words “GAMOT SA COVID-19 APPROVED NA (Cure for COVID-19 already approved)” were shown at the bottom part of the screen.

Facebook page RUDY Baldwin and YouTube channel NivLogs TV posted the video on April 14. These posts were flagged by Facebook’s monitoring tool Claim Check for verification.

The Facebook page captioned its post, “PLS SHARE THE GOOD NEWS. FABUNAN ANTIVIRAL INJECTION Approved na (already).” Meanwhile, the YouTube channel said in its description, “APPROVED NA NI PRES. DUTERTE ANG FAI. LOCKDOWN ILILIFT NA (President Duterte approved FAI. The lockdown will now be lifted.)”

As of writing, the video has had over 63,000 views, 1,500 shares, 2,200 reactions, and 288 comments on Facebook. On YouTube, it had over 7,000 views. 

Rating: FALSE

The facts: As of April 15, the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) of the Philippines has not yet approved the Fabunan Antiviral Injection. It is not included in FDA's list of registered drugs.

In a text message to Rappler on April 14, Health Undersecretary Maria Rosario Vergeire also said there is “no CPR (product registration) application submitted to FDA” in relation to the said antiviral injection.

In an earlier statement on April 8, the FDA warned the public against the use of drugs or vaccines that are not yet certified to treat COVID-19, particularly the Fabunan Antiviral Injection and PRODEX B.

“Until such products are proven safe and effective for use in the treatment of COVID-19 they cannot be dispensed to the public nor can therapeutic claims be made,” the FDA said.

The Fabunan Medical Clinic clarified on March 31 that the antiviral injection is used exclusively by its doctors. It added that the clinic has no sales managers. 

The FDA said that there are currently no registered drugs or vaccines that are licensed specifically for COVID-19 treatment or prevention in the country, but there are ongoing clinical trials to examine the safety of new and existing drugs as cures for COVID-19 patients. This includes antiviral, antibacterial, and antimalarial agents. (READ: What you need to know: Coronavirus cures, vaccines being tested)

On April 15, Cabinet Secretary Karlo Nograles also said the Philippines is ready to participate in the clinical trial of Japanese anti-flu drug Avigan as a possible treatment for COVID-19. (READ: PH ready for trial of Japan flu drug for coronavirus treatment)

Although a number of possible COVID-19 cures being used by health professionals all over the world show promising results, all of them are still undergoing testing. The World Health Organization (WHO) also does not recommend self-medication as a prevention or cure for COVID-19.

The original video of Marcos, which was livestreamed on April 13, also did not say that the antiviral injection is now approved. Rather, he claimed that Duterte endorsed the antiviral injection to the FDA. Marcos even said that there is still no approved drug yet to treat COVID-19.

The part of Duterte's speech that was included in the video, however, did not specifically mention the Fabunan Antiviral Injection. Instead, he said that a “giant pharmaceutical” firm is on its way to developing a cure.

Meron nang medisina, antibody ang isang giant pharmaceutical. Tapos naghahabulan sila. Sabi by May baka they would start to market it, ipabili na nila. Ang problema… we are on the last ladder. Ang mauna niyan ‘yung mga mayaman na... kasi marami ‘yan eh, kailangan,” Duterte said.

(There is now a drug, an antibody developed by a giant pharmaceutical. They are racing to produce it. They say they would start to market it by May. The problem is… we are on the last [rung of the] ladder. The rich (countries) would be the first to purchase.) – Pauline Macaraeg/Rappler.com

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