Three new drug candidates are being tested in the final phase of Solidarity’s global clinical trials to find effective treatments against COVID-19, the World Health Organization announced on Wednesday.
The therapies – artesunate, imatinib and infliximab – will be tested on hospitalized COVID-19 patients in 52 countries under the Solidarity PLUS program.
More than 203 million cases of the disease have been recorded worldwide as of Wednesday, according to WHO.
The world hit the 200 million mark last week, just six months after cases passed 100 million.
At a press conference in Geneva, WHO Director General Dr Tedros Ghebreyesus underlined the critical need to find more effective and accessible COVID-19 therapies.
“We already have many tools to prevent, test and treat COVID-19, including oxygen, dexamethasone and IL-6 blockers.
“But we need more, for patients at all ends of the clinical spectrum, from mild to severe disease. And we need health professionals trained to use them in a safe environment,” he said.
The three drugs have been selected by an independent panel for their potential to reduce the risk of death in people hospitalized for COVID-19.
They are already being used to treat other conditions.
Artesunate is a medicine for severe malaria, imatinib is used for certain cancers including leukemia, while infliximab is used to treat Crohn’s disease, rheumatoid arthritis and other immune system diseases.
Manufacturers Ipca, Novartis and Johnson & Johnson donated the drugs for the trial.
Solidarity PLUS is the largest global collaboration between the 194 member states of the WHO, involving thousands of researchers in more than 600 hospitals.
Finland is one of 52 participating countries, 16 more than the first Solidarity Trial, contributing to the COVAX vaccine solidarity initiative. Two university hospitals in Finland are the first worldwide to start the second phase.
Hanna Sarkkinen, the country’s Minister of Social Affairs and Health, said clinical trials have great potential to save lives.
“While there are approximately 3,000 clinical trials of COVID-19, most are too small to provide significant information. We need clinical trials large enough to provide better treatments for COVID-19 patients,” she said.
Four drugs were evaluated as part of the first Solidarity Trial in 2020, which showed that remdesivir, hydroxychloroquine, lopinavir and interferon had little or no effect on patients hospitalized with COVID-19.