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Four promising coronavirus cures now part of massive drug megatrial, 70 drugs may be effective

Christian Fernsby |
Nearly 70 drugs and experimental compounds may be effective in treating the coronavirus, a team of researchers reported on Sunday night.

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Some of the medications are already used to treat other diseases, and repurposing them to treat Covid-19, the illness caused by the coronavirus, may be faster than trying to invent a new antiviral from scratch, the scientists said.

The list of drug candidates appeared in a study published on the web site bioRxiv. The researchers have submitted the paper to a journal for publication.

The World Health Organization (WHO) is working with its partners on at least 20 potential coronavirus vaccines, which is the only type of treatment for the novel coronavirus that can eradicate the virus.

That type of treatment is anywhere between 12 months to 18 months away, even though at least two clinical trials are already underway.

In the meantime, the WHO is also conducting a separate effort to improve COVID-19 treatments, and the organization announced a massive megatrial that will focus on four different types of cures that have shown promising results in limited testing.

The object of this widespread testing is to allow physicians to offer patients the best possible care with the resources that are already available to them.

Drugs that have been previously approved for use in treating other diseases could be used to improve the condition of the hundreds of thousands of patients who have been admitted to hospitals around the world, increase the recovery speed, and reduce the number of fatalities.

Comparatively, developing a brand new drug specifically for the COVID-19 illness might take years, which is why WHO and participating countries are fast-tracking this worldwide trial of drugs that are already widely available.

The study is called “Solidarity” and it was announced a few days ago.

It’s meant to determine which of the four most popular therapies being used to treat COVID-19 are the most effective and safest for patients.

The Solidarity trial will include thousands of patients in several countries including Argentina, Bahrain, Canada, France, Iran, Norway, South Africa, Spain, Switzerland, and Thailand.

ScienceMag also reports that the French National Research Institute for Medical Research (INSERM) is coordinating an add-on trial in Europe called Discovery that will include 3,200 patients from seven countries (Benelux countries, Germany, France, Spain, and the UK).

Solidarity and Discovery will be similar when it comes to the drugs that are being tested, except for chloroquine, which will not be included in the European-only trial.

Unlike regular clinical trials that are double-blind so that patients won’t know if they’re getting the drug that’s tested or a placebo, the new studies will test the new therapies on all patients.

Participating hospitals can enroll subjects with ease.

The doctor will enter the patient’s data in a WHO site, including preexisting conditions that could alter the course of the COVID-19 disease, and the participant will have to sign an informed consent form.

The physician will also list the available drugs in the hospital, and the WHO will randomly assign the patient to one of the therapies available.

After that, physicians will only have to record the day the patient leaves the hospital or dies, and whether he or she required oxygen or ventilation.

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