Pharmaceutical Magazine – After the announcement of the Solidarity Trial involving 13,000 people in 30 countries where Remdesivir, Hydroxochloroquine, Ritonavir, and Interferon were unable to reduce the COVID-19 mortality rate.
Currently, the drug dexamethasone is still the only therapy proven to be effective against the new coronavirus for severe patients, the head of the World Health Organization / WHO said Friday (10/16/2020).
WHO Director-General Tedros Ghebreyesus speaks to reporters at a twice-weekly webinar from Geneva about the fight against the pandemic.
He disclosed the provisional results from the WHO Solidarity Therapy Trial and referred to influenza, which could be treated using some of the same methods used to fight COVID-19.
Tedros also warned that the demand for influenza vaccines may exceed supply in some countries, especially in the northern hemisphere, when winter arrives.
“Therefore, the Immunization Expert Strategic Advisory Group has recommended that, among the five risk groups, health workers and the elderly are the highest priority groups for influenza vaccination during the COVID-19 pandemic,” he said.
“Each year, there are up to 3.5 million cases of severe seasonal influenza worldwide, and up to 650,000 deaths related to respiratory disease.” He continued.
During winter in the Southern Hemisphere this year, the number of seasonal flu cases and deaths was less than normal due to measures being taken to contain COVID-19.
“However, we cannot assume that the same will happen in the northern hemisphere flu season,” said the WHO chief.
Turning to the Solidarity Therapy Trial, Tedros said it showed that two other drugs, remdesivir and interferon, had little or no effect in preventing coronavirus-related deaths or reducing hospital time.
“For now, the corticosteroid dexamethasone is still the only therapy proven to be effective against COVID-19, for patients with severe disease,” said Tedros.
Dexamerhasone is used in the treatment of a variety of conditions, including rheumatic problems, various skin conditions, severe allergies, asthma, chronic obstructive pulmonary disease, croup, swelling of the brain and eye pain after eye surgery. It is also used with antibiotics in cases of tuberculosis.
He said the Solidarity Trial is the world‘s largest randomized controlled trial for COVID-19 therapy, involving nearly 13,000 patients in 500 hospitals in 30 countries.
In June, the WHO chief said the health agency had announced a halt to research on hydroxychloroquine.
Then, in July, he announced he would no longer enroll patients to receive the combination lopinavir and ritonavir as well.
Tedros said the Solidarity Trial is still recruiting about 2,000 patients each month and will assess other treatments, including new monoclonal and antiviral antibodies.
Regarding the coronavirus, Tedros said that although the number of deaths reported in Europe last week was still less than a quarter of the number reported in the worst week of March, hospitalizations were increasing.
“Many cities are reporting that they will reach intensive care bed capacity within a few weeks,” said Tedros.
On Tuesday, the National Institutes of Health, the leading US agency responsible for biomedical and health research, said it had started research to determine whether certain approved drugs show results against COVID-19.
It said experimental remdesivir had shown clinical benefit for patients.
Remdesivir therapy was used by US President Donald Trump soon after he was admitted to the Walter Reed National Military Medical Center following a diagnosis of COVID-19 on October 3, White House doctor Sean Conley said at the time.
The COVID-19 pandemic has claimed more than 1.1 million lives in 188 countries and territories since last December.
The US, India, Brazil and Russia are currently the worst affected countries.
More than 39 million cases have been reported worldwide, while nearly 27 million patients have recovered, according to figures compiled by the US ‘Johns Hopkins University.