WHO Launches Major Trials for Coronavirus Treatments
The World Health Organization (WHO) and partners are organizing a massive study to compare untested treatments for COVID-19 in multiple countries.
“This large, international study is designed to generate the robust data we need to show which treatments are the most effective”, said WHO chief Dr. Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus. “We have called this study the SOLIDARITY trial”.
The SOLIDARITY Trial is looking at 4 different medications for treatment of COVID-19. The medications are: Remdesivir, chloroquine and hydroxychloroquine, Ritonavir/lopinavir and Ritonavir/lopinavir + interferon beta.
The list of drugs to test first was put together for WHO by a panel of scientists who have been assessing the evidence for candidate therapies since January. The group selected drugs that had the highest likelihood of working; had the most safety data from previous use; and are likely to be available in supplies sufficient to treat substantial numbers of patients if the trial shows they work.
How Will Patients Be Enrolled?
When a person with a confirmed case of COVID-19 is deemed eligible, the physician can enter the patient’s data into a WHO website, including any underlying condition that could change the course of the disease, such as diabetes or HIV. The participant has to sign an informed consent form that is scanned and sent to WHO electronically.
To get robust results, thousands of patients will have to be recruited. To date, Argentina, Bahrain, Canada, France, Iran, Norway, South Africa, Spain, Switzerland and Thailand have confirmed their participation. WHO is also hoping to do a prevention trial to test drugs that might protect health care workers from infection.
The French National Research Institute for Medical Research (INSERM) announced it will coordinate an add-on trial in Europe, named Discovery, that will follow WHO’s example and will include 3200 patients from at least seven countries, including 800 from France. That trial will test the same medications.
Despite press reports, no single treatment has been shown to be effective in large scale against COVID-19. Those press reports have spurred demand for drugs currently being tested as treatment. The malaria drug chloroquine, for example, was used as part of a small French trial (20 patients) and showed promise. Unfortunately, there have been documented cases of overdoses of chloroquine as well as price hikes for the medication in Nigeria (where Malaria is an endemic).
In the U.S., doctors have been inundated with calls asking for prescriptions for the drug, causing worries about scarcity. To date, there isn't enough rigorous data to endorse any of these therapies for the treatment of COVID-19. However, a trial of this magnitude could lead to better therapies for treating the disease. .