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June 1, 2020

Covid-19 With no vaccine ready, drugs are being tested world over

NEW DELHI: Though over 159 vaccine candidates against Covid-19 are at different stages of development across the world, the commercial production of a successful vaccine could take at least a year or more, foreign media reported.

Therefore, several countries have simultaneously started studies on using different drugs or combination of drugs for immediate treatment of Covid-19 as the pandemic has already cost over 3 lakh lives. TOI takes a look at some of the key studies on drugs.

US research: hydroxychloroquine with antibiotic azithromycin The US Food and Drug Administration (FDA) approved limited emergency use for chloroquine and hydroxychloroquine as a treatment for Covid-19. Hydroxychloroquine and chloroquine, either alone or in combination with azithromycin, are being used on Covid patients. The FDA, however, says the use of the anti-malarial drug should be limited to clinical trials or for treating certain hospitalised patients as it is aware of side-effects like serious heart rhythm problems. However, it recommended that their benefits outweigh the risk. US President Donald Trump says that he is also taking hydroxychloroquine as a preventive medicine against coronavirus.

* US study: Remdesivir and anti-inflammator drug baricitinib The National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases (NIAID) is sponsoring the clinical trial evaluating the safety of a treatment regimen of

antiviral Remdesivir, developed by Gilead, plus anti-inflammatory drug Baricitinib against COVID-19. Investigators anticipate enrolling over 1,000 participants in the US. The trial is expected to open at 100 US and international sites.

* Chinese study: Favilavir The National Medical Products Administration of China has approved the use of Favilavir, an anti-viral drug, as a treatment for coronavirus. The drug has reportedly shown efficacy in treating the disease with minimal side-effects in a clinical trial involving 70 patients. The clinical trial is being conducted in Shenzhen.

* University of Minnesota: BP drug Losartan University of Minnesota Medical School researchers have begun enrolling patients in clinical trials involving BP drug Losartan as a potential treatment for those diagnosed with Covid-19. Two studies are being conducted. The first one evaluates whether angiotensin II receptor blocker (ARB) losartan can prevent lung injury in those hospitalised with COVID-19 pneumonia, while the second evaluates if the drug can prevent hospitalisation.

French study: Arthritis drug tocilizumab (Actemra) Early data from a clinical trial in France has demonstrated encouraging profile of Roche unit Genentech’s rheumatoid arthritis drug tocilizumab (Actemra) to treat seriously ill COVID-19 patients. The study, conducted by the Paris university hospital trust, involved 129 hospitalised patients with moderate or severe viral pneumonia. The drug was able to ‘significantly’ decrease the number of deaths or life support interventions when compared to a control group. China too has approved the use of Actemra for treatment of severe COVID complications.

* Bangladesh study: Ivermectine with Doxycycline combination. A team of Bangladesh researchers led by Dr Md Tarek Alam tested a frequently used antiprotozoal medicine called Ivermectine in a single dose with Doxycycline, an antibiotic, on Covid-19 patients and got positive results. “Of the 60 patients given the combination of drugs, all of them recovered. Patients recovered from the virus within 4 days and there were no side-effects,” says Alam.

* Japanese study: Favipiravir or Avigan Antiviral drug favipiravir or Avigan developed by Fujifilm Toyama Chemical in Japan is showing promising outcome in treating mild to moderate cases of Covid-19. The drug has been tested on 340 individuals in China’s Wuhan and Shenzhen. “It has a high degree of safety and is clearly effective in treatment,” Zhang Xinmin, of China’s science and technology ministry, had said in March.