WHO's Solidarity trial will test three new potential COVID-19 drugs in new phase

The World Health Organization's (WHO) Solidarity PLUS trial will be entering its second phase. It will be testing four new therapies - artesunate, imatinib and infliximab - to treat COVID-19.

Four drugs - remdesivir, hydroxychloroquine, lopinavir and interferon - were evaluated during a previous Solidarity PLUS trial where they found that they had "little or no effect on hospitalized patients with COVID-19."

These drugs were chosen by an independent expert panel as they could reduce the risk of death in patients hospitalized for COVID-19. The manufactures of these drugs were donated for the trials.

The World Health Organization's Solidarity PLUS trial is the world’s largest ongoing randomized control trial of potential COVID-19 therapeutics. It represents the largest global collaboration among the WHO Member States.

With thousands of researchers and patients involved, it enables the trial to evaluate several treatments simultaneously using the same protocols. It also helps them obtain solid estimates of a drug's effect on mortality —even moderate effects.

New treatments are added to the guidelines while the WHO drops those that are ineffective or prove to be unsafe or ineffective.

This study began in June 2021 and will continue till May 2022. It is being conducted in over 600 hospitals in 52 countries.

Also read: Demystifying clinical trials: Everything you need to know about process, safety, eligibility

“Finding more effective and accessible therapeutics for COVID-19 patients remains a critical need, and WHO is proud to lead this global effort,” said Dr Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus, WHO Director-General.

The three drugs are:

  • Artesunate is produced by Ipca and treats malaria. It is derived from the herb Artemisia annua. Artesunate is a derivative of Artemisinin which is considered to be very safe as it has been used to treat malaria for over 30 years. Artemisia annua commonly known as Sweet wormwood, is a plant found in Asia and parts of North America. The standard dose used to treat malaria will be administered intravenously for seven days and its anti-inflammatory properties will be evaluated.
  • Imatinib is produced by Novartis and is a cancer treatment. It is an oral drug and early experimental data suggests that it can "reverses pulmonary capillary leak." It will be administered orally, for 14 days, daily.
  • Infliximab has been produced by Johnson and Johnson and treats immune system-related diseases. It is a TNF alpha inhibitor, a chimeric monoclonal antibody that recognizes human TNF alpha. These types of anti-TNF medicines have been in use for more than 20 years. They have demonstrated efficacy and safety in restricting broad spectrum inflammation, including in elderly populations who are most clinically vulnerable to COVID-19. A standard dose that patients with Crohn's Disease received will be administered intravenously.

Also read: WHO Solidarity Trials find Remdesivir, HCQ, HIV drug, interferon ineffective in treating COVID-19

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