[Ip-health] FT: WHO to launch trials of potential coronavirus treatments

Thiru Balasubramaniam thiru at keionline.org
Wed Mar 18 23:14:18 PDT 2020


WHO to launch trials of potential coronavirus treatments

Organisation fears results from small studies may not be clear enough for
medical decisions

Hannah Kuchler in New York 6 HOURS AGO

The World Health Organization plans to launch its own trial to study
potential treatments for the coronavirus, warning that the trickle of
results from small studies may not be robust enough to make the right
medical decisions.

Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus, the WHO’s director-general, said on Wednesday
that the trial — named Solidarity — will be simple enough to permit the
participation of hospitals struggling to cope with the burden of extra

So far, 10 countries have signed up, including Argentina, Canada, France
and Iran, which has a large outbreak, but not including hardest hit Italy
or China. Mr Tedros said he hoped more would join.

“I continue to be inspired by the many demonstrations of solidarity from
all over the world,” he added.

Drugmakers, governments and universities have been conducting trials on
potential treatments for Covid-19 across the world, but especially in China
where the outbreak began.

Mr Tedros warned that might not be enough: “Multiple small trials with
different methodologies may not give us the clear, strong evidence we need
about which treatments help to save lives,” he said at a WHO press

There are three main categories of treatments: antivirals, used for
diseases like HIV or Ebola, which would work by stopping the virus from
replicating; antibodies, developed from those made by patients with the
disease and given to boost the immune system; and anti-inflammatories,
usually used for conditions like arthritis, if the disease kicks the immune
system into overdrive, hampering breathing.

The WHO will test four different drugs or combinations against the standard
of care in the country where the trial is conducted. The trial will include
Gilead’s antiviral drug remdesivir, which many analysts believe is the best
prospect for treating the coronavirus. It will also test a combination of
HIV drugs from AbbVie — lopinavir and ritonavir. It will also test these
two drugs alongside an anti-inflammatory previously used to treat multiple
sclerosis. The fourth strand will look at the performance of the
antimalarial drug chloroquine, which is a generic medicine out of patent.

The launch came as early results from trials in China showed that anti-flu
drug Avigan is working against the coronavirus. But that drug has serious
side effects for pregnant women.

Another study published in the New England Medical Journal on Wednesday
based on research in Wuhan, China, found that the lopinavir and ritonavir
combination had no effect on patients’ condition or their mortality.

Thiru Balasubramaniam
Geneva Representative
Knowledge Ecology International
41 22 791 6727
thiru at keionline.org

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