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WHO to test three new drugs in hospitalised COVID-19 patients

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Lara Adejoro

The World Health Organisation has announced the next phase of its global Solidarity clinical trial.

According to a press statement released by the WHO on Wednesday, the new phase tagged Solidarity PLUS is to enroll hospitalised COVID-19 patients for a new trial to test three new drugs.

The therapies – artesunate, imatinib and infliximab, WHO said, were selected by an independent expert panel based on their potential in reducing the risk of death in hospitalised COVID-19 patients. 

They are already used for other indications: artesunate is used for severe malaria, imatinib for certain cancers, and infliximab for diseases of the immune system such as Crohn’s Disease and rheumatoid arthritis.

The drugs were donated for the trial by their manufacturers, WHO said.

“Finding more effective and accessible therapeutics for COVID-19 patients remains a critical need, and WHO is proud to lead this global effort.

“I would like to thank the participating governments, pharmaceutical companies, hospitals, clinicians and patients, who have come together to do this in true global solidarity,” said Dr. Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus, WHO Director-General. 

According to WHO, the Solidarity PLUS trial is a platform trial that represents the largest global collaboration among WHO Member States. 

“It involves thousands of researchers in over 600 hospitals in 52 countries, 16 more countries than the first phase of trials. 

“This allows the trial to assess multiple treatments at the same time using a single protocol, recruiting thousands of patients to generate robust estimates on the effect a drug may have on mortality-even moderate effects.

“It also allows new treatments to be added and ineffective treatments to be dropped throughout the course of the trial.

“Previously, four drugs were evaluated by the trial. The results showed that remdesivir, hydroxychloroquine, lopinavir and interferon had little or no effect on hospitalized patients with COVID-19.

“Through the Solidarity PLUS trial, researchers across the world have an opportunity to use their expertise and resources to contribute to global COVID-19 research,” WHO said.

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