WHO launches next phase of major trial into Covid-19 treatments

WHO headquarters (Keystone/Salvatore Di Nolfi)

The World Health Organization (WHO) on Wednesday announced the next phase of a major international clinical trial that aims to identify effective treatments against Covid-19.

Solidarity PLUS, a global study led by the WHO, will test three new drugs in hospitalised patients. These are:

  • Artesunate, a drug produced by Ipca and used for over 30 years to fight severe forms of malaria. The WHO's Covid-19 therapeutic advisory group has recommended evaluating its anti-inflammatory properties.
  • Imatinib, a product from Novartis used to treat certain cancers.

  • Infliximab, a Johnson and Johnson product that is effective in fighting diseases of the immune system such as Crohn's disease and rheumatoid arthritis.

“Finding more effective and accessible therapeutics for COVID-19 patients remains a critical need, and WHO is proud to lead this global effort,” said Dr Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus, WHO director-general.

The trial will involve researchers in 600 hospitals across 52 countries. The drugs were donated for the trial by their manufacturers.

So far the Solidarity trial has not revealed any promising verdicts for Covid-19 patients. Results from all four treatments evaluated in March 2020 – remdesivir, hydroxychloroquine, lopinavir and interferons – showed little or no benefit. Only corticosteroids have proven effective in reducing mortality in hospitalised patients to date.