Amid the rising coronavirus cases across the globe, the World Health Organization (WHO) on Friday announced a large global trial, called SOLIDARITY, to find out if any drug or drug combination can treat the infections caused by the deadly virus.
The effort launched by WHO is unprecedented and it is a coordinated measure taken by WHO to collect scientific data during the coronavirus outbreak. It is learnt that the WHO study could include several patients from across the globe and the megatrial has been designed in such a way that even hospitals which are dealing with high number of COVID-19 patients can participate in the study.
According to sciencemag.org, the researchers are focusing on repurpose drugs which are already approved for other diseases to find a treatment for coronavirus. The researchers are also studying some unapproved drugs that have performed well in animal studies with the other two coronaviruses, which cause severe acute respiratory syndrome (SARS) and Middle East respiratory syndrome (MERS).
Scientists across the world have said that there are several existing compounds whcih could be tested to find a cure for coronavirus but WHO researchers are focused on four therapies: an antiviral compound called remdesivir; the malaria medications chloroquine and hydroxychloroquine; a combination of two HIV drugs, lopinavir and ritonavir; and that same combination plus interferon-beta.
It is learnt that the HIV combo failed in treating coronavirus patients in China in a small study but WHO is interested in conducting a large trial of these drugs.
Enrolling subjects in SOLIDARITY is not going to be a tough task. A person with confirmed case of COVID-19 is eligible and the doctor treating the person can enter his/her data into a WHO website. The subject has to sign an informed consent form which will be sent to WHO through Internet. The WHO will then ask the physician which drugs are available at his or her hospital and WHO will then randomize the patient to one of the drugs available or to the local standard care for COVID-19.
“After that, no more measurements or documentation are required,” says Ana Maria Henao-Restrepo, a medical officer at WHO’s Department of Immunization Vaccines and Biologicals. Physicians will record the day the patient left the hospital or died, the duration of the hospital stay, and whether the patient required oxygen or ventilation, she says. “That's all.”
Arthur Caplan, a bioethicist at New York University Langone Medical Center, says he likes the study’s design. “No one wants to tax the frontline caregiver who's overwhelmed and taking risks anyway,” says Caplan.