7 June 2024

The president of the Thoracic Society of Thailand, and head of the Department of Respiratory Diseases and Tuberculosis at Mahidol University, Dr. Nitipat Jiarakul, has voiced disagreement with the Bangkok Metropolitan Administration’s (BMA) plan to administer the Favipiravir anti-viral drug to all COVID-19 patients in field hospitals.

In his Facebook post today (Tuesday), Dr. Nitipat said that Favipiravir is registered in Thailand’s list of approved drugs and was approved for use in COVID-19 patients suffering from serious lung infections, as a special case, to prevent the spread of the disease during the first wave of COVID-19 pandemic, which was in short supply.

He said the working committee, tasked with supervising the use of the drug, then believed that the drug would reduce the severity of the symptoms induced by COVID-19 and could save lives, although the drug, which is manufactured in Japan, was not used in the West and, hence, there are is no scientific evidence of its efficacy in treating COVID-19.

The working committee reserved sufficient Favipiravir tablets to meet the anticipated demand, during the second wave of the pandemic, but only 20% of the patients needed the drug, so the committee decided to extend the use of the drug to cover patients with mild lung infections and those who may develop a severe lung infection.

After the second wave, in his capacity as president of the Thoracic Society of Thailand, Dr. Nitipat said that he had suggested that the National Drug List Committee include Favipiravir in the list of drugs which all hospitals can procure by themselves, to meet the anticipated increase in demand during the third wave of the pandemic, which is showing an exponential surge in new cases.

He said, personally, he disagrees with the use of the drug for all COVID-19 cases for three reasons. First, there may be a shortage of the drug for patients who need it the most, as the prescription rate has risen from 20% to 70% of all patients. Second, the carefree use of the drug for all patients may lead to complacency among doctors, who may depend more on the drug than on proper care of the patients and, finally, the non-rationed use of the drug may lead to drug resistance by the virus.