WHO head Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus expects early results of COVID-19 drug trials within two weeks. Image by EPA PHOTO

Health

First virus drug trial results in 2 weeks

2020-07-05 05:51:40

The World Health Organisation should soon get results from clinical trials it is conducting of drugs that might be effective in treating COVID-19 patients, its Director General Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus says.

“Nearly 5500 patients in 39 countries have so far been recruited into the Solidarity trial,” he told a news briefing, referring to clinical studies the UN agency is conducting.

“We expect interim results within the next two weeks.”

The Solidarity Trial started out in five parts looking at possible treatment approaches to COVID-19: standard care; remdesivir; the anti-malaria drug hydroxychloroquine; the HIV drugs lopinavir/ritonavir; and lopanivir/ritonavir combined with interferon.

Earlier this month, it stopped the testing of hydroxychloroquine after studies indicated it showed no benefit in those who have the disease but more work is still needed to see whether it may be effective as a preventative medicine.

Mike Ryan, head of the WHO’s emergencies program, said it would be unwise to predict when a vaccine could be ready against COVID-19, the respiratory disease caused by the novel coronavirus that has killed more than half a million people.

While a vaccine candidate might show its effectiveness by year’s end, the question was how soon it could be mass produced, he told the UN journalists’ association ACANU in Geneva.

There is no proven vaccine against the disease now, while 18 potential candidates are being tested on humans.

WHO officials defended their response to the virus that emerged in China last year, saying they had been driven by the science as it developed.

Ryan said what he regretted was that global supply chains had broken, depriving medical staff of protective equipment.

“I regret that there wasn’t fair, accessible access to COVID tools. I regret that some countries had more than others, and I regret that front-line workers died because of (that),” he said.

He urged countries to get on with identifying new clusters of cases, tracking down infected people and isolating them to help break the transmission chain.

“People who sit around coffee tables and speculate and talk (about transmission) don’t achieve anything. People who go after the virus achieve things,” he said.