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2 Indians join global remdesivir trial as the world pins its hopes on it to treat Covid-19

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Representational image | Gilead Sciences
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New Delhi: Two Indian patients have joined the trials for remdesivir — an experimental drug scientists believe could hold the answer to treating Covid-19 — as India volunteered to participate in the World Health Organization’s Solidarity trial for developing vaccines and testing drugs for the coronavirus.

“I am very happy that India has joined Solidarity trials. First two patients were randomised from India over the last few days … There are now about 11 countries which have started enrolling patients,” Dr Soumya Swaminathan, chief scientist at WHO said in conversation with ThePrint’s Editor-in-Chief, Shekhar Gupta at the digital event Off The Cuff on 25 April.

Given the multi-national efforts going into the trial, which was launched on 18 March, the WHO named it ‘Solidarity’. The trial will compare untested treatment options to assess their effectiveness against Covid-19.

The trial has registered about 1,650 patients from countries such as Indonesia, Malaysia, Philippines, Norway, Italy, Spain, Canada, France and Switzerland. “In fact, Iran has enrolled the majority of patients,” said Dr Swaminathan.

According to the scientist, remdesivir was included in the ongoing trials because “it is a broad spectrum antiviral drug which prevents the replication mechanism of the coronavirus”.

The World Health Organization (WHO) is facilitating access to thousands of treatment courses for the trial through donations from a number of drug manufacturers.

“The greater the number of participating countries, the faster the results will be generated,” WHO said on its website.

Apart from remdesivir, treatment options including anti-HIV drugs lopinavir and ritonavir, lopinavir and ritonavir with Interferon beta-1a, and chloroquine or hydroxychloroquine will be tested.


Also read: Inform public not to use HCQ and azithromycin without prescription, Modi govt tells states


Solidarity trial

Due to the pressure Covid-19 has been exerting on health systems across the world, WHO considered the need for speed and scale in conducting trials.

“While randomized clinical trials normally take years to design and conduct, the Solidarity Trial will reduce the time taken by 80 per cent,” WHO said on its website.

“Enrolling patients in one single randomized trial will help facilitate the rapid worldwide comparison of unproven treatments. This will overcome the risk of multiple small trials not generating the strong evidence needed to determine the relative effectiveness of potential treatments,” it said.

Patients are enrolled when those with Covid-19 are admitted to participant hospitals and are willing to join this study. Eligibility is limited to adult patients.

Eligible patients will be asked to sign consent forms to show they understand the possible risks and benefits and consent to joining the study. The medical team responsible for each patient will check whether any of the study treatments would definitely be unsuitable, according to the WHO.


Also read: Clinical trial to test if HCQ, HIV drug can prevent infection in Covid-19 ‘contact persons’


The remdesivir answer

Remdesivir is an investigational broad-spectrum antiviral drug, which is not approved anywhere globally for any use. Manufactured by US company Gilead Sciences, it is currently the subject of at least five trials on coronavirus patients.

“The limited preclinical data on remdesivir in MERS and SARS indicate that remdesivir may have potential activity against COVID-19,” Gilead Sciences stated on its website.

Gilead Sciences’ claim about the drug’s potential efficacy against the disease has been endorsed by WHO.

“There is only one drug right now that we think may have real efficacy, and that’s remdesivir,” said WHO assistant director-general Bruce Aylward at a Beijing press briefing.

According to the UN health body, remdesivir was previously tested as an Ebola treatment. It also generated promising results in animal studies for the Middle East Respiratory Syndrome (MERS-CoV) and severe acute respiratory syndrome (SARS) — both caused by coronaviruses — suggesting it may have some effect on patients with Covid-19.


Also read: Remdesivir fails to treat Covid in China trial, drug maker says too soon to draw conclusion


 

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Andhra doctor, suspended for alleging PPE shortage, now beaten by cops for ‘creating nuisance’

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Bengaluru: A doctor with a government hospital in Andhra Pradesh, who was suspended for questioning the shortage of PPE kits, was admitted to a mental health facility Sunday, a day after he was allegedly manhandled by the police and arrested for creating nuisance in Visakhapatnam.

Dr Sudhakar Rao, a government civil surgeon, was beaten, his hands tied behind his back and dragged by police officers Sunday. During the incident, Sudhakar allegedly verbally abused the Jagan Mohan Reddy government in an inebriated state. Videos of the incident have since been widely shared online.

“The police control room received a call about a person creating nuisance on Beach Road Hospital in Visakhapatnam. The Fourth Town police was rushed there and found that the person was the suspended doctor, Sudhakar.

“When the police tried to control him, he snatched the mobile phone of an officer and threw it away. He is suffering from mental disorder and he was drunk. He was sent for a medical examination,” Vishakapatnam Police Commissioner R.K. Meena told the media Sunday.

Sudhakar was admitted to a mental hospital Sunday after doctors at the King George Hospital in Vishakapatnam said he suffered from anxiety.

“Since the doctor is in anxiety and talking irrelevant things, I have referred him to a mental care hospital in Visakhapatnam,” said Dr Radha Rani, medical superintendent, King George Hospital.

A statement released by the hospital said: “Dr Sudhakar was brought to the KGH casualty ward at 6.30 pm. From the smell, it was found that he was in a drunk condition. Under the influence of alcohol, he did not cooperate with anybody there and kept abusing all. Still, his pulse, BP were checked. Pulse was 98, BP 140/100. Blood samples were sent to forensic lab to ascertain alcohol content in his blood.”


Also read: 6 toilets for 20 houses, inadequate testing: Why Mumbai’s Worli chawls are a Covid hotspot


‘Treatment towards Sudhakar was inhuman’

Sudhakar, who spent more than 10 years at the Narsipatnam Government Hospital in Andhra Pradesh, was suspended from his duties in March after he openly criticised the Reddy government for failing to provide PPE kits and N95 masks to doctors treating Covid-19 patients.

He had alleged that the state government was giving N95 masks and PPE kits meant for doctors to politicians and the police.

A video of Sudhakar criticising the government was also shared widely. In the clip, he can be heard saying: “We are putting our lives at risk here. We are asked to use the same mask for 15 days and a fresh mask will be provided only twice a month.”

Speaking to ThePrint, Dr P. Gangadhar Rao, member of the National COVID Committee of the Indian Medical Association, said the manner in which Sudhakar was manhandled by the police was “inhuman” and “violated” human rights.

“We strongly condemn the way he was taken into custody. He was not carrying a weapon, he was alone, the number of policemen outnumbered him. Why treat him like that? We also saw a video where a policeman beats him with a lathi,” said Dr Gangadhar.

He added that Rao was one of the most experienced anaesthetists the Andhra Pradesh government had.

“Our next step of action is to get Sudhakar to write an unconditional apology for having used filthy language, abusing the chief minister and the government. We will then take our appeal to the CM seeking that he be reinstated,” Gangadhar said.


Also read: Face shields, gowns, masks — the new attire for cabin crew post lockdown


 

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