KUALA LUMPUR, April 6 — The World Health Organization (WHO) has launched a worldwide “Solidarity Trial” with Malaysia’s participation in an international effort to test several medicines to treat Covid-19.
The globally coordinated trial is what WHO described as an unprecedented effort to collect reliable data and compare the safety and effectiveness of four treatment protocols using different combinations of remdesivir, lopinavir/ritonavir, interferon beta, chloroquine and hydroxychloroquine.
Remdesivir is an antiviral drug that was originally developed by Gilead Sciences to fight Ebola and other related viruses, while lopinavir/ ritonavir is a combination antiretroviral medicine, sold under the brand name Kaletra, to help control HIV infection.
According to Science magazine, interferon-beta, a molecule involved in regulating inflammation in the body, will also be combined with lopinavir/ ritonavir under another arm of the Solidarity Trial.
Chloroquine and hydroxocholoroquine are decades-old antimalarial drugs that have reportedly been touted by US President Donald Trump as a “game changer”, despite thin evidence of their efficacy against Covid-19.
“The global pandemic is affecting more than 180 countries, and one of these drugs may be our best hope for treating people infected with Covid-19,” said Dr Ying-Ru Lo, the Head of Mission and WHO Representative to Malaysia, Brunei Darussalam and Singapore, in a joint statement today with the Ministry of Health (MOH).
“This is our chance, as a global community, to turn the tide against the pandemic. Malaysia will be a valued partner in this trial to evaluate potential treatments that are more effective, and to save lives in the global battle to fight this virus.”
Health director-general Dr Noor Hisham Abdullah said MOH has fast-tracked the process to implement the drug trials to treat patients with Covid-19, which will begin soon.
The nine MOH hospitals included are Tuanku Fauziah Hospital, Sultanah Bahiyah Hospital, Pulau Pinang Hospital, Sungai Buloh Hospital, Kuala Lumpur Hospital, Melaka Hospital, Tengku Ampuan Afzan Hospital, Sarawak General Hospital and Queen Elizabeth Hospital.
The research will be headed by Dr Chow Ting Soo, an infectious disease consultant at Pulau Pinang Hospital with a team comprising 16 infectious disease physicians and pharmacists as co-investigators at the respective MOH hospitals.
“Malaysia’s participation in this worldwide trial could help find life-saving medicines for Covid-19 through evaluating their safety and effectiveness,” said Dr Noor Hisham.
He added that MOH Institute for Clinical Research (ICR) and Clinical Research Malaysia (CRM) would help facilitate the implementation of the WHO-initiated trial in Malaysia.