Canadian researchers now conducting drug trials for COVID-19
A COVID-19 treatment may be closer than we think; at least four groups of Canadian researchers are now conducting randomized controlled trials to test drug therapies.
According to the Canadian Medical Association Journal, Canadian researchers are working with teams around the world to find potential cures for the sickness.
Generating RCT evidence for #COVID19 treatment: Canadian researchers are working on international trials of promising therapies and prevention. Read the commentary by @DrToddLee @MatthewPCheng et al: https://t.co/ntltWWvafB pic.twitter.com/W2mYEfsVYA— CMAJ (@CMAJ) March 26, 2020
At least two of the trials are looking at hydroxychloroquine, an anti-malarial drug that some claim is also effective against the novel coronavirus.
Other promising drugs include lopinavir–ritonavir (a drug used in treatments for HIV) and remdesivir (a drug initially thought to hold promise as an Ebola treatment).
The authors of the CMAJ study warn that it is crucial researchers "learn as much as possible about this disease, as quickly as possible, to inform patient care."
That being said, the authors also called for caution.
"When faced with an unknown and frightening disease such as COVID-19... some clinicians and patients will feel strongly compelled to try unproven therapies based on theory," the study says, urging researchers to prioritize scientific rigour over speed.
If drugs like hydroxychloroquine, chloroquine, Remdesivir, and even HIV medications like Lopinavir/Ritonavir hold promise for treating the coronavirus, then they should carefully be tested in well thought out clinical trials with informed consent and responsible investigation.— Eugene Gu, MD (@eugenegu) March 21, 2020
Not every medical expert agrees, however.
"Things are faster and so we’re having to cut some corners," said Dr. Srinivas Murthy, an associate professor with the faculty of medicine at the University of British Columbia, speaking with Global News.
"Given the speed at which we need to get this up and running, it’s probably a small sacrifice to make in the grand scheme."
This is a national effort to learn as much as possible, as quickly as possible. @CCCTG_ @AMMICanada @UBCmedicine @Sunnybrook https://t.co/59vTq5VjEN— srinivas murthy (@srinmurthy99) March 23, 2020
Normally, medical studies involve a double-blind process in which neither participants nor researchers know which patients were selected to receive the actual treatment and which were given the placebo.
Given the rapid spread of COVID-19 across Canada, however, the double-blind process may — as Dr. Murthy indicated — simply take too much time.
The Canadian government has invested more than $465 million into COVID-19 research to date, including vaccine development.
Vancouver-based AbCellera, Quebec-based Medicago, and a Saskatoon laboratory are among some of the companies that have received funding for their promising COVID-19 research.
The University of Saskatchewan research team is already conducting clinical trials on animals and hopes to have a vaccine ready in the next 18 months.
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