Covid-19: Can Ebola, HIV, or Malaria Drugs Treat Covid-19? New WHO Trial Aims to Find Out
The World Health Organization (WHO) has annouced that it will be launching a multinational clinical trial in which four (4) existing drugs will be used to treat patients with coronavirus, covid-19. The project which currently includes 10 countries and will potentially involve thousands of patients currently battling the coronavirus-caused disease aimed at generating a robust data to show which treatments are the most effective against Covid-19 .
It is assumed that the vaccines to protect us (humans) against covid-19 may not arrive for at least a year or more, but treatments to subdue the virus, shorten the length of the illness and save are another story. Like vaccines, antiviral medications can take years of research to develop, but the medical community already working on drugs that might prove effective in the battle against SARS-CoV-2, the virus that causes covid-19.
In order find out which of these drugs might be most effective, the World Health Organization (WHO) has launched a multinational clinical study called the Solidarity Trial. So far, 10 countries have signed up and they include Switzerland, Spain, France, Canada, Argentina, Bahrain, Thailand, Iran, Norway and South Africa, according to statement made by WHO. Science magazine also reports that thousands of covid-19 patients could be involved in the trial.
There is a dire need for effective antiviral treatments is pandemic. As of March 26, over 490,269 people have been infected by SARS-CoV-2 and 22,156 have died, according to statistics gathered by worldometer.
“Using multiple small trials with different methodologies may not give us a clear, strong evidence we need about which treatments help to save lives,” said Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus, D.G, WHO, at a press briefing held last week, reports Global News. “WHO and its partners are therefore organizing a research in many countries in which some of these untested treatments are compared with each other.”
There are four different drugs physicians willl try during the Solidarity trial either as a single drug and/or combinations: (1) remdesivir, (2) lopinavir and ritonavir combined with interferon beta (3) the combination of lopinavir and ritonavir, (4) and chloroquine and hydroxychloroquine, reports STAT. These drugs and/or combinations will be used in the field with patients currently diagnosed with covid-19. The outcomes of these drugs with patients diagnosed with covid-19 will then be compared to the outcomes of patients who received the standard model of care for the disease in each locale.
The drugs for this solidarity trial might sound familiar, since they’re already used in the fight against other communicable diseases. Remdesivir is an antiviral drug that inhibits an enzyme used by viruses for self-replication, and it’s used in the treatment of diseases caused by the Ebola and Marburg viruses. Just recently, remdesivir was listed as a candidate drug to treat coronaviruses, including SARS, MERS, and SARS-CoV-2. The drug combination of ritonavir and lopinavir are used to treat HIV, and the addition of interferon beta to this compound adds a potent immune system messenger to the mix, which acts to disable viruses. Both chloroquine and hydroxychloroquine are both used to prevent and treat malaria, which is transmitted by mosquitoes (female anopheles).
The Solidarity Trial seek to determine if any of these drugs can effectively slow SARS-CoV-2 within the human body and/or possibly even eliminate it. By and large, physicians need to come up with something to reduce the death rates and the number of patients being admitted to intensive care units (ICUs). These enlisted drugs could possibly be used proactively to protect frontline healthcare workers from coronavirus, covid-19, reports Science magazine.
Going by the design, the testing procedures for the Solidarity Trial are very simple; this trial will have to be done under immensed pressures, as frontline physicians work to treat covid-19 patients in the field and as hospitals become increasingly overwhelmed with new cases.
As Science magazine discloses, eligible patients consenting to this, will be added to a centralized WHO website with their data as well as pre-existing health conditions. Other data collated may also include, list of drugs made available to them at their hospital or healthcare facility. With this, the system will randomly select the patient to one of the four different drug therapy or to the local standard of care model (which will serve as the control). Physicians will continue to enter data into the system over the course of the trials.
Arthur Caplan, a Bioethicist from New York University Langone Medical Center told reporters that the design is cool, saying, “No one will wants to tax the frontline caregiver who’s overwhelmed and taking risks anyway.”
The result could take a few weeks or months to analyze, but that’s still a huge improvement over designing new drugs from scratch.
Critically, lopinavir-ritonavir “didn’t show promise for treating hospitalized COVID-19 patients with pneumonia in a recent clinical trial in China,” according to the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Meanwhile the admission of this trial by WHO suggests that efforts by China to study these drugs may not have gathered enough data to show if any were used to prevent patients from developing severe disease or save those with severe disease from death, as reported by STAT.
Several countries in Europe recently announced a clinical trial called Discovery, which will look at the same drugs and/or drug combinations as the Solidarity Trial.
In fact, the war against this pandemic, covid-19 has only just begun. With diligence and patience, we’ll hopefully find new ways to combat this menace and turn the tide.
While the search is on-going learn how to protect yourself against this pandemic scourge covid-19.