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Drugs used for COVID-19 fail to stop deaths: WHO

A batch of drugs, at least the one used in the treatment of COVID-19, was unable to prevent deaths in patients infected with the novel coronavirus, a World Health Organization (WHO) study showed Friday. 

In six months, the world’s largest randomized control trial on COVID-19 therapeutics generated conclusive evidence on the effectiveness of repurposed drugs for the treatment of COVID-19.

“Interim results from the Solidarity Therapeutics Trial, coordinated by the World Health Organization, indicate that remdesivir, hydroxychloroquine, lopinavir/ritonavir, and interferon regimens appeared to have little or no effect on 28-day mortality or the in-hospital course of COVID-19 among hospitalized patients,” WHO spokesman Tarik Jasarevic said.

Speaking at a UN briefing for journalists in Geneva, Jasarevic said although the results for the first four treatment options evaluated were unpromising, the global platform is now available to rapidly evaluate promising new treatment options, with nearly 500 hospitals participating as trial sites.

The study spanned more than 30 countries and looked at the effects of treatments on overall mortality, initiation of ventilation, and duration of hospital stay in hospitalized patients.

Other uses of the drugs, for example, in treating patients in the community or for prevention would have to be examined using different trials.

“The progress achieved by the Solidarity Therapeutics Trial shows that large international trials are possible, even during a pandemic, and offer the promise of quickly and reliably answering critical public health questions concerning therapeutics,” said WHO in a brief statement.

Newer antiviral drugs, immunomodulators -- medications used to normalize the immune system -- and anti-SARS COV-2 monoclonal antibodies are now considered for evaluation, said the world health body.

On Tuesday, the National Institutes of Health, the leading US agency responsible for biomedical and health research, said it had started a study to determine whether certain approved drugs show results against COVID-19.

It said experimental remdesivir had demonstrated clinical benefit for patients.

Remdesivir therapy was used by US President Donald Trump soon after he was admitted to Walter Reed National Military Medical Center following a COVID-19 diagnosis on Oct. 3, White House physician Sean Conley had said at the time.


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