NEW DELHI: The Indian Council of Medical Research (ICMR) has approved 9 hospitals--across various cities--for a solidarity trial by the World Health Organisation (WHO) to test the efficacy of repurposed drugs in the treatment of COVID-19 patients.
The five armed study that will be done on 1500 patients--severely or moderately sick with novel coronavirus--will see patients being given either Remdesivir, Chloroquine or Hydroxychloroquine, Lopinavir-Ritonavir and Lopinavir-Ritonavir with Interferon or standard of care without any of these medicines who will then be compared for results.
Over 100 countries globally have come together for the trial launched by the WHO to assess which drug can work effectively in treating Covid-19.
By enrolling patients in multiple countries--the trial which provides for both speed and scale--aims to rapidly discover whether any of the drugs slow disease progression or improve survival.
"We have approved the trials at 9 sites as of now but the overall number could reach 20-30 in a few weeks," Dr Sheela Godbole, a scientist with the ICMR and head of the trial project told this newspaper.
In India, anti-malaria drug Hydroxychloroquine along with antibiotic Azithromycin has already been recommended as part of ICMR’s clinical management guideline for COVID-19 patients in ICU despite reservations by bioethicists and limited evidence of its efficacy against the infection so far.
The government has also suggested Hydroxychloroquine for prophylaxis to people at the higher risk of contracting the infection, such as health care workers and close contacts of COVID-19 patients.
There are some reports that district and health authorities are prescribing the drug indiscriminately to people in densely populated areas such as Dharavi in Mumbai, even as the medicine can sometimes be fatal to those with prior cardiac conditions.
Meanwhile, the US pharma major Gilead which manufactures the Ebola drug Remdesevir transferred the patent to three Indian drugmaker companies, at the behest of the government, that will allow local production of the medicine in India.
The drug was not available in India so far.