Amid the rapid spread of the novel coronavirus worldwide, the World Health Organization (WHO) has announced a large global trial, called ‘SOLIDARITY’, to jump-start the process of finding potential treatments for the COVID-19 disease.
The move is being seen as part of an aggressive effort to accelerate the global search for medications to fight the deadly respiratory disease.
Scientists around the world have been working on various treatments, including vaccines and antivirals, in the hopes of finding a cure for the disease, which has claimed at least 14,396 lives across 171 countries and territories so far.
According to a report in Sciencemag.org, the trial could include many thousands of coronavirus patients in dozens of countries. The report said the UN health agency would design the trial in a simple way that even hospitals overwhelmed with a high number of coronavirus cases can participate.
Treatments that WHO will test
For the project, WHO researchers are looking to repurpose drugs that are known to be largely safe and approved for other conditions. The four most promising therapies that researchers are focusing on include:
- Remdesivir, an experimental antiviral compound
- Chloroquine and hydroxychloroquine (malaria medications)
- Lopinavir and ritonavir – a combination of two HIV drugs
- Ritonavir/lopinavir + interferon beta
While the HIV drug combo, when tested on COVID-19 patients in a small study in China, failed to produce promising results, WHO believes that a large trial with a greater variety of patients is warranted. To participate in the trial, a physician can enter the data of a patient with a confirmed case of COVID-19 on the WHO website.
Subjects participating in the SOLIDARITY trial also should mention any underlying condition such as diabetes or HIV infection that could change the course of the disease. All the participants have to sign an informed consent form that is scanned and sent to WHO electronically, added the report.
“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.”
Meanwhile, the report noted that the pattern of the SOLIDARITY trial can change at any time, adding that several other drugs, including the Japanese flu drug favipiravir, may be added to the trial.