The World Health Organization (WHO) announced a large global trial, called SOLIDARITY, to find out whether any drug can treat infections with the new coronavirus for the dangerous respiratory disease. It’s an unprecedented effort—an all-out, coordinated push to collect robust scientific data rapidly during a pandemic. The study, which could include many thousands of patients in dozens of countries, has been designed to be as simple as possible so that even hospitals overwhelmed by an onslaught of COVID-19 patients can participate.
They will test the following drugs:
Remdesivir: The new coronavirus is giving this compound a second chance to shine. Originally developed by Gilead to combat Ebola and related viruses, remdesivir shuts down viral replication by inhibiting a key viral enzyme, the RNA-dependent RNA polymerase. TrialSite News recently covered a story of a CA woman whose condition was improved with Remdesivir.
Chloroquine and hydroxychloroquine: The WHO scientific panel designing SOLIDARITY had originally decided to leave the duo out of the trial, but had a change of heart at a meeting in Geneva on 13 March, because the drugs “received significant attention” in many countries, according to the report of a WHO working group that looked into the drugs’ potential. The widespread interested prompted “the need to examine emerging evidence to inform a decision on its potential role.”
Ritonavir/lopinavir: This combination drug, sold under the brand name Kaletra, was approved in the US in 2000 to treat HIV infections. Abbott Laboratories developed lopinavir specifically to inhibit the protease of HIV, an important enzyme that cleaves a long protein chain into peptides during the assembly of new viruses. Because lopinavir is quickly broken down in the human body by our own proteases, it is given with low levels of ritonavir, another protease inhibitor, that lets lopinavir persist longer. The combination can inhibit the protease of other viruses as well, specifically coronaviruses. It has shown efficacy in marmosets infected with the MERS virus, and has also been tested in SARS and MERS patients, though results from those trials are ambiguous.