After months of planning and testing a handful of repurposed drugs that studies from around the world have found useful in treating COVID-19, researchers in the largest scientific study for potential COVID-19 treatments have found many of them ineffective against the SARS-CoV-2 virus. The World Health Organization’s Solidarity trial is the world’s largest ongoing randomized control trial of potential COVID-19 therapeutics.
Based on data collected from the trial, the WHO has released an interim report of patients’ responses to repurposed drugs (including redeliver, hydroxychloroquine, lopinavir/ritonavir, and interferon) for COVID-19 treatment. 2,750 volunteers were given Remdesivir, 954 HCQ, 1,411 Lopinavir, 651 Interferon plus Lopinavir, 1,412 only Interferon, and 4,088 placeboes (no drug). The trial found that there was little or no effect of these drugs on the outcome of COVID-19 over a 28-day period.
A few of these drugs had been given emergency–use authorization by governments of many countries, which means patients hospitalized with COVID-19 could be treated with the drug – local laws and supply permitting. These permissions could now change based on the Solidarity trial findings, which include 11,266 patients hospitalized with COVID-19, spread across 30 countries.
The study looked at how each of these treatments affected mortality, ventilator use, and length of hospital stay in hospitalized patients with COVID-19. It didn’t look into other uses of the drugs for COVID-19, like in treating patients in a COVID-19-infected community, or for COVID-19 prevention.
The trial results are yet to be peer-reviewed and have been uploaded on the preprint server medRxiv.
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. WHO also discontinued anti-HIV drug combination lopinavir/ritonavir trials in July after reviewing these drugs’ progress during their interim results.
WHO chief scientist Soumya Swaminathan said that during the trials, the HCQ and lopinavir/ritonavir trials were stopped after they proved ineffective. But the other trials continued as planned.
“We’re looking at what’s next. We’re looking at monoclonal anti-bodies, we’re looking at immunomodulators and some of the newer anti-viral drugs that have been developed in the last few months,” Swaminathan told Reuters.
Remdesivir has been the frontrunner in re-purposed drugs, with various studies showing a positive recovery rate in patients. According to Reuters’ report, data from a US study of remdesivir lead by Gilead showed the use of the treatment cut COVID-19 recovery time by five days in a trial comprising 1,062 patients.
“The emerging (WHO) data appears inconsistent, with more robust evidence from multiple randomized, controlled studies published in peer-reviewed journals validating the clinical benefit of remdesivir,” Gilead told Reuters.
“We are concerned the data from this open-label global trial has not undergone the rigorous review required to allow for constructive scientific discussion, particularly given the limitations of the trial design.”