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July 21, 2020

‘Country’s largest drug trial on virus proves effective’

Lahore

July 21, 2020

LAHORE:The preliminary results of country's largest drug trial on Covid-19 "Pakistan Randomized and Observational Trial to Evaluate Coronavirus Treatment (PROTECT)", has not only established the safety of hydroxychloroquine, a drug generally used for treating malaria, in terms of mortality but has also shown significant recovery rate in Covid-19 patients when used in combination with two other drugs- azithromycin and oseltamivir.

The results were made public here at the University of Health Sciences (UHS), on Monday, in a ceremony which was presided over by Punjab Governor Chaudhry Muhammad Sarwar, and attended by provincial minister for higher education Raja Yassir Humayun, vice-chancellors of medical universities, researchers and faculty members.

Releasing the results of the study, UHS vice-chancellor, Prof Javed Akram, who is also the principal investigator, clarified that it aimed at evaluating hydroxychloroquine alone and in various drug combinations as treatment of corona.

"It is a multicentre, adaptive, randomized control drug trial aimed at newly-diagnosed patients", he informed. He said the study found that COVID-19 patients who received the three drugs combined had a recovery rate of 86 percent.

On this occasion, paying a rich tribute to the frontline health workers, the governor said that the nation would always remember the valour and courage with which the health workers fought against corona.

"A memorial wall is being erected at the Governor House in recognition of the services of health workers that would bear the names of all the frontline soldiers", he added. The governor called the vice-chancellors of all the medical universities Supermen. He added that the steadfastness and resilience of this nation were unmatched in the world. He said that while it was an encouraging sign to see virus cases decreasing, now cattle markets, Eidul Azha and Muharram posed a great challenge with regards to controlling the spread of infection once again.

"If these challenges are overcome, we will overcome corona", the governor asserted. UHS VC Prof Javed Akram apprised the participants that the drug trial was launched on 30 April after the approval from Drug Regulatory Authority of Pakistan (DRAP) and the National Bioethics Committee (NBC). He said that 12 centres, including 10 universities from eight cities were included in the study. The study enrolled corona-positive patients over the age of 18 who were divided into eight groups. The patients included in the research were 60 percent male and 40 percent female. The three medicines were given to seven groups, each consisting of 60 to 65 patients, alone and in different combinations, while one control group was given nothing.

Prof Javed Akram disclosed that the rate of recovery from the combination of the three drugs was the highest at 86 percent. The second highest recovery rate was 75 percent from Azithromycin. The overall recovery rate of the patients who were given medicines was 73.1 percent while the rate of recovery without medicines was 67 percent. Besides, 27 percent patients remained corona-positive even two weeks after taking the drug. Of the patients, who were not given any medication, 33 percent remained corona-positive even after two weeks.

The UHS vice-chancellor added that the recovery rate in the first week of research was 33.5 percent, while in the second week it increased to 72.2 percent. Initially, the PCR test was used as a basis for research. He said that a total of four deaths were reported during the study. Three deaths occurred in groups receiving single medicine, while one death occurred in the group receiving a combination of hydroxychloroquine and azithromycin.

He clarified that the study was still in progress and it would involve around 9,500 patients when completed. Prof Javed Akram said that Rs30 million had been spent on research so far which the university had collected from its own resources and through donations.

King Edward Medical University VC, Prof Khalid Masood Gondal in his address said that if the standard operating procedures were implemented on Eidul Azha, corona would be under control by September. Provincial Minister for Higher Education Raja Yassir Humayun said medical institutions could play an important role in research. Pakistani doctors were serving all over the world. He praised the role of UHS in conducting research and said that the results of the research were encouraging.

Prof Aamer Zaman Khan, Prof Aziz-ur-Rehman, Dr Shehla Javed Akram, Prof Maryam Nawaz Tarar, Justice (r) Tassaduq Hussain Jilani, Abrar-ul-Haq, Prof Mahmood Ayaz, Prof Asad Aslam, Dr Somia Iqtadar, Dr Farah Khalid, Prof Zafar Gil, Prof Hanif Nagra, Prof Muhammad Shehzad, Dr Allah Rakha, Waqas Latif, Faisal Amin and Dr Shah Noor were also present. In the end, Punjab governor Chaudhry Sarwar distributed shields among the participants.