The race is on to find a cure for COVID-19 as the pandemic continues to wreak havoc on countries, shuttering economies, straining public health systems and taking many lives. As of this writing there are 2, 160, 207 confirmed cases with 146, 088 deaths worldwide.
The World Health Organization has taken the lead in a global “Solidarity trial” of at least four candidate drugs that could potentially cure the disease: Remdesivir; Lopinavir/Ritonavir; Lopinavir/Ritonavir with Interferon beta-1a; and Chloroquine or Hydroxychloroquine.
First to grab headlines was Hydroxychloroquine which US President Trump has mentioned on many of his earlier briefings to the press.
Now, attention has shifted to remdesivir which has shown promising results based on a few studies in the US. The drug is made by Gilead Sciences and was initially tested against Ebola but had little success. Multiple studies in animals showed the drug could both prevent and treat coronaviruses related to COVID-19, including SARS (Severe Acute Respiratory Syndrome) and MERS (Middle East Respiratory Syndrome).
The US NIH came out with a report that remdesivir prevented COVID-19 from progressing in rhesus macaque monkeys based on mild- to-moderate cases of the human disease.
Although the “solidarity trial” is unprecedented and groundbreaking as it has never been done before, experts are saying that more rigorous studies are needed as the urgency to find a cure may compromise the global effort.
Dr. Rahul Ganatra, director of Continuing Medical Education at Brigham and Women’s Hospital in Boston, Massachusetts has scrutinized a paper published in the New England Journal of Medicine on the use of remdesivir for patients with severe COVID-19. His initial appraisal is that the study was based on a population of small size – only 61 patients, there were missing data like the definition of what is “standard care”, and perhaps most importantly, it lacked a control group. To his mind, these threaten the promise of remdesivir being a cure for COVID-19. His conclusion: more well-designed trials like ones with control-groups are needed.
It is hoped that indeed researchers would bear in mind that a cure for COVID-19 would only be found through good science and that the goal is not only to be the first in finding it, rather finding a cure that really works.