World Health Organization trial finds repurposed drugs have little effect on COVID-19

Coronavirus: Remdesivir has 'little effect' on death risks, says WHO

After finding that hydroxychloroquine had no positive effects on COVID-19 infected patients, The WHO, FDA, Oxford University and other countries pulled the plug on their ongoing trials. The study is posted on a pre-print server and is yet to be peer-reviewed.

Remdesivir, the only antiviral drug authorized for treatment of COVID-19 in the United States, fails to prevent deaths among patients, according to a study of more than 11,000 people in 30 countries sponsored by the World Health Organization.

The trial was able to generate conclusive evidence on the impact the drugs had on mortality, the need for ventilation, and duration of hospital stay.

Manufacturer Gilead Sciences commented that "we are concerned that the data from this open-label global trial have not undergone the rigorous review required to allow for constructive scientific discussion, particularly given the limitations of the trial design".

Health experts said the findings could come as a jolt to doctors across India who have been prescribing both remdesivir and hydroxychloroquine to Covid-19 patients under guidelines approved by the Union health ministry and the Indian Council of Medical Research (ICMR).

In other words, though it's possible that future trials could still find some benefit here, possibly for select groups of covid-19 patients, the big picture for any of these drugs isn't looking great.

Why It's Important: There is no approved cure or vaccine to treat COVID-19 yet.

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The trial involved almost 11,300 patients at 405 hospitals in 30 countries. Then, the authors looked at data on almost 740,000 COVID-19 patients and examined the use of drugs that work to protect these processes, asking whether patients who received them fared better - and they did, in some cases.

"A major clinical breakthrough looks different and warns us that the battle against Covid-19 is far from won".

The remdesivir findings aren't terribly surprising based on previous findings, but they are "still impactful", especially given the dizzying size of the Solidarity trial, said Dr. Maricar Malinis, an infectious disease physician at Yale University.

From March 22 to October 4, World Health Organization investigators compiled data from 405 hospitals in 30 countries, in a trial that comprised 11,266 adults: 2,750 receiving remdesivir, 954 hydroxychloroquine (HCQ), 1,411 lopinavir, 651 interferon plus lopinavir, 1,412 only interferon, and 4,088 standard care without any of the above. The WHO had announced the inefficacy of hydroxychloroquine and lopinavir/ritonavir against Covid-19 earlier this year.

Remdesivir was one of the four drugs and so was hydroxychloroquine, a malaria drug.

Gilead, which got the Solidarity data 10 days ago, questioned the findings, telling Reuters they appear "inconsistent with more robust evidence from multiple randomized, controlled studies published in peer-reviewed journals validating the clinical benefit of remdesivir". Almost 39 million people around the world have been diagnosed with COVID-19 and more than one million have died.

The findings, one senior critical care medicine specialist said, imply that low-cost steroids such as dexamethasone and methylprednisolone, also approved for Covid-19 are the "only things proven to reduce mortality".



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