Three new drugs under clinical trials to treat Covid-19: WHO

World Health Organization

Three new candidate drugs are being tested in the latest phase of global solidarity clinical trials to find effective treatments against Covid-19, said the World Health Organisation (WHO).

The therapies — artesunate, imatinib and infliximab — will be tested on hospitalised Covid-19 patients in 52 countries under the Solidarity Plus programme.

There have been more than 203 million cases of the disease recorded globally as of Wednesday, according to WHO data. The world hit the 200-million mark last week, just six months after cases passed 100 million.

Speaking during a press conference in Geneva, agency chief Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus underscored the critical need to find more effective and accessible Covid-19 therapeutics.

“We already have many tools to prevent, test for 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 workers that are trained to use them in a safe environment,” he said.

The three drugs were selected by an independent panel for their potential in reducing 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 diseases of the immune system. Manufacturers Ipca, Novartis and Johnson & Johnson, donated the drugs for the trial.

Solidarity Plus is the largest global collaboration among WHO’s 194 Member States, with thousands of researchers in over 600 hospitals participating. Finland is among the 52 countries taking part, 16 more than the initial Solidarity Trial, and contributes to the COVAX vaccine solidarity initiative. Two university hospitals there have been the first worldwide to begin the second phase.

Hanna Sarkkinen, the country’s Minister of Social Affairs and Health, said clinical trials have a great potential to save lives.

“Even though there are approximately 3,000 clinical studies on Covid-19, most of them are too small to yield significant information. We need clinical trials that are large enough to bring better treatments for Covid-19 patients,” she said.