Anyone diagnosed with COVID-19 on the Island could be helping to find a treatment for the virus by taking part in a multinational control trial.
More than 1,000 patients have already been enrolled in the Solidarity Trial, launched by the World Health Organization, in more than 100 countries. Patients diagnosed with the coronavirus at the Royal Jubilee, the Victoria General or Nanaimo Regional General hospitals will be approached to take part in the study and given a randomized “arm of treatment” if they agree to take part.
Arms of treatment include standard of care; hydroxychloroquine which has been used to treat malaria; Kaletra, a drug used to treat HIV and Remdesivir, a new antiviral that was previously used as a treatment for Ebola and has produced “promising results” in animal studies for Middle East Respiratory Syndrome (MERS-CoV) and severe acute respiratory syndrome (SARS), according to the World Health Organization.
“The crude outcome we’re looking at is mortality, so do these drugs have any effect on the patient’s mortality,” say Dr. Daniel Ovakim, critical care physician with Island Health.
As of Tuesday, April 21, there were only five people diagnosed with COVID-19 in Island hospitals. Those five patients, Ovakim explains, have already been in hospital too long to be enrolled in the study.
Currently, no one on the Island has been enrolled as the program just got up and running at the beginning of the week — “now we’re just waiting for patients,” says Ovakim.
Enrollment in the trial is voluntary and can be revoked at any time the patient wishes.
“The risks are minimal and really depend on which drug they’re randomized to,” says Ovakim. “Any drug that we give a patient will have some side effect and risk potential and part of the study is to investigate unknown risks associated with these drugs.”
Ovakim says the results of the trial could take up to two years to provide useful information to produce a treatment for the virus.
“The sheer amount of information that is being populated online … all this information needs to be clarified because we can’t have people and physicians using treatments that may be harmful,” he says. “The importance of this trial is to get the answers out there quickly so we know we’re not putting any patients at undue risk simply because it’s being promoted by nonphysicians as a treatment.”