Update 21 September 2020: Despite claims made on social media there is still no evidence that FAI has been approved, or undergoing clinical trial, or being legally used anywhere.
: 8 June 2020. Social media posts claim that the Indonesian health authorities had agreed to conduct clinical trials on Fabunan Antiviral Injection. The claims appear only from know promoters of FAI. Despite the importance of such a move, if true, it remains unconfirmed by medical news and information outlets, the WHO database of ongoing Covid-19 measures, Indonesian media, Philippine media or any reliable source. Given the track record of misinformation by FAI promoters (Such as claims that the Philippine FDA had approved FAI), we catalogue the claim as dubious.Clinical trials must be registered, yet no such trial can be found on clinical trial databases such as centerwatch.com or clinicaltrials.gov.Update: 31 May. Malacanang corrects false information regarding FAI.
Important update: 27 May: The Fabunan Medical Clinic has closed.
Update, 24 May, 2020: The Philippine FDA has issued a cease-and-desist order, DoH is ‘working up a case’ against Dr Willie Fabunan. Here for more information.
New information is emerging on the Fabunan claims which are now being verified. Updates will be made as these are checked.
Corrections of factual errors are welcome in the comments section, which is moderated.
Right now, things are little different from the 1918 Spanish flu pandemic which killed up.to 18 million people, according to some estimates. Many of the rumoured ‘cures’ have re-emerged in the Covid-19 crisis. You’ll find some familiar claims in this recording.
Now, as then, fake news and fake cures have appeare throughout social media, presenting serious hazards, as the International Consortium of Investigative Journalist reports.
The case of the Fabunan patented jollop raises a number of red-flags suggesting that a patented mixture of painkiller and a steroid for treating Covid-19, Fabunan Antiviral Injection, is, prehaps less than is claimed for it. It is not encouraging that development was led by an accupuncturist, Willie Fabunan.
Indeed, the signboard of the Fabunan Clinic dies not inspire confidence, suggesting, as it does, that it can ‘sterlize’ HIV/AIDS and Dengue, diseases with no known cure. These are among the ‘red flags’ that indicate a problem in accepting the claims.
In the Philippines, it is widely assumed that a US product has more credibility than a Filipino product and a US connection is often leveraged for marketing purposes.
The most important words missing from the signboard are ‘US Approved’
The 2007 patent for FAI applies to a range of drug mixtures made of anaesthetics and corticosteroids, and injection programmes, generally three injections. Each injection costs about 20USD, so a full course costs a not-inconsiderable sum, for most Filipinos, of 60USD.
A red-flag is that the patent claims it is effective against the common cold, influenza, measles, chickenpox, SARS, and HIV.. it has not been approved for use against such infections.
In 15 years no scientific evidence has been presented to support these claims. Indeed, a 2011PhD thesis by a biochemist, Najoua Elbourakadi at the University of North Carolina at Greensboro, dismisses FAI as ineffective against HIV.It is claimed that the components of FAI metabolised into an antiviral substance called DEAE. The researcher determined that the yield of DEAE was too small to have any effect. Dexamethasone was used alone in vitro experiments which had theoretical promise. No further experiments have been conducted.A recent trial by Oxford University found that, while effective in Covid-19 patients with. severe respiratory distress, Dexamethosone had no benefits for patients without respiratory distress and provides a list of worrying side-effects
In communications with me Doctor Ted Herbosa, Associate Professor at the University of the Philippines recalls that in the 1960s rural doctors would use a mixture of steroid and paracetamol as a ‘cure’. The steroids would make the patient feel good and give an energy boost. In the 1970s the practice of doctors making up their own medicines was banned and physicians were required to use only registered drugs.Although the ingredients of FAI are separately registered for otherr medical conditions, neither is registered for use against Covid-19,The Fabunan Medical Clinic biodata for Dr Fabunan deserves attention. It makes reference to the National Inventors Hall of Fame in Ohio but he is not among that organisation’s inductees. Much of the data appears to consist of Who’s Who publications of the kind that charge for inclusion, or purchasing copies. No medical or scientific organisations are mentioned, nor any relevant publications.
The ingredients of the so-called FAI, as given in its patent, raise concerns. It has no antiviral component but it does have a powerful anaesthetic, Procaine, and a corticosteroid called dexamethasone sodium phosphate.
In fact, recent correspondence in the eminent medical journal The Lancet, warns against the use of corticosteroids in the treatment of Covid-19, “Overall, we call for caution in the use of corticosteroids for COVID-19 and do not recommend this as a routine treatment.”
A further red-flag is that no mention is made of side-effects, although its constituents, whiich are off-the shelf drugs, certainly do.
Having seen a number of calls on social media, especially Facebook and Youtube for the Food and Drug Administration of the Philippines to approve or use a medication, allegedly an anti-viral, patented by Dr Ruben Fabulan of San Marcellino, Zambales.
While the gentleman has a number of patents getting a patent does not indicate that the medicine is effective in any way.
Youtube videos exist, but these are not evidential with regard to efficacy or safety.
Searches of medical research databases show no published peer-reviewed clinical trials in any journals, something one would expect to find in the biography of a self-styled ‘drug designer’.
Until Dr Fabulan has published his research in appropriate medical journals of recognised authority it is unlikely that the DoH or BFAD will take the claim seriously and, indeed, would be foolhardy to do so.
To understand the indicators that FAI is, at best, misguided, at worst a scam, let’s look to how real medicines are developed and their safety and effectiveness ensured.