Scientists Look To Start Trials For Two Drugs To Treat COVID-19 In Next Few Weeks

A CDC illustration of the novel coronavirus (2019-nCoV). ALISSA ECKERT, DAN HIGGINS/CDC

Scientists in Australia are looking closely at a duo of drugs that could prove to be effective against COVID-19. All being well, they could even start recruiting patients for the clinical trial by the end of March.

Professor David Paterson, director of the University of Queensland Centre for Clinical Research, told news.com.au that his lab is looking to trial two existing drugs to treat patients with COVID-19. 

One drug is used for patients with HIV and the other treats malaria, known as chloroquine. Although both have been largely superseded by a newer generation of drugs, they could find a new lease on life in the world’s struggle against the novel coronavirus responsible for COVID-19.

The two drugs have already been seen to eradicate the novel coronavirus in test tubes. There has also been some preliminary evidence from China and other parts of the world that suggests chloroquine can be used as part of an effective antiviral therapeutic treatment for patients with COVID-19. Professor Paterson added that one of the medications was given to some of the first people to test positive for COVID-19 in Australia and resulted in complete recovery. 

So, next up, Paterson and his team are looking to gather some more hard data to replace the anecdotal reports. They hope to start recruiting participants for the clinical trials in the coming few weeks to see whether they could be utilized as a treatment for the infectious disease. 

“It’s a potentially effective treatment,” Professor Paterson told news.com.au.

"What we want to do at the moment is a large clinical trial across Australia, looking at 50 hospitals, and what we’re going to compare is one drug, versus another drug, versus the combination of the two drugs,” he added.

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"There have already been patients treated with these in Australia and there's been successful outcomes but it hasn't been done in a controlled or a comparative way,” Paterson continued. “We want to give Australians the absolute best treatment rather than just someone’s guesses or someone’s anecdotal experiences from a few people.” 

This isn’t the only group looking at the potential of these drugs. As mentioned, scientists in China have already published some results that suggest chloroquine, along with the antiviral drug remdesivir, could be used to treat patients with COVID-19. Elon Musk has even lightly suggested (above) that chloroquine could be used against COVID-19, citing a recently published paper from Stanford University School of Medicine.

However, there has also been a fair amount of misinformation about the use of chloroquine to treat COVID-19. AFP Fact Check reports that a misleading news article, widely shared in Nigeria, has claimed that chloroquine has been “found effective against coronavirus” and has cured “12,552 patients in China.” There has also been a WhatsApp voice message circulating in Nigeria that wrongly claims that chloroquine phosphate is a cure for COVID-19.

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