Scientists still lack conclusive evidence that the two anti-Covid drugs given to Donald Trump are clinically effective.
The British researchers point out that both drugs – remdesivir and REGN-COV2 – have yet to complete the large-scale randomized trials needed to fully demonstrate their ability to counter Covid-19 in patients. And many have criticized the US authorities for their failure to conduct such trials. This undermined efforts to find effective drugs to treat those affected by the disease.
“If President Trump gets better, we still don’t know if those drugs played a role in his recovery or not. They may have been of paramount importance or have played no role at all, ”said Professor Martin Landray of the University of Oxford. “This means that when we come to treat the next patient admitted to hospital with Covid, we will not be even wiser about the usefulness of those drugs.”
In contrast, Britain has adopted a policy of conducting randomized and blind trials to test drug efficacy through the Recovery testing program, founded by Landray and Peter Horby, also of the University of Oxford. Compare the responses of patients receiving treatment with those given a placebo. In this way, British scientists have identified the effectiveness of dexamethasone, a cheap steroid, in the treatment of Covid while they have demonstrated the uselessness of the much-publicized hydroxychloroquine.
Last week, the Recovery researchers began their studies to test the effectiveness of REGN-COV2 when the first five patients, admitted to hospital with Covid complications, received the drug. REGN-COV2 is a combination of two artificial antibodies, called monoclonal antibodies, and in the coming weeks, thousands of other UK patients will be recruited for a trial of its effectiveness.
Horby said on Saturday he believed REGN-COV2 had real potential. “Of the drugs available, it is one of the most promising,” he said. And Landray shared this optimism. “It has real potential. However, at the moment all we know is that it reduces the viral load, the amount of virus in a patient. This tells us that this is a harmful drug for the virus. But we still don’t know if it’s actually good for the patient. Could it have side effects? Is it better for children, the elderly, or people on ventilators? We need randomized trials to find out. “
Trials of Trump’s other drug, remdesivir, have also produced encouraging results, although once again they are not conclusive. A study in China earlier this year had to be stopped because it could not recruit enough patients, while a later and larger study in the United States showed that those given the drug spent less time on the drug. ventilators and that those given the drug had slightly better survival rates than those given placebo. However, the difference was not statistically significant.
“Remdesivir appears to accelerate patients’ healing time, but are more patients actually surviving? We don’t know, “Landray added. The answer to this question is likely now being provided by a World Health Organization study of remdesivir, which is expected to be completed in a few weeks.
The UK Recovery program is now conducting randomized trials of many other potential Covid treatments, including the antibiotic azithromycin and an anti-inflammatory drug known as Tocilizumab, as well as ‘convalescent plasma’ derived from blood plasma taken from convalescent Covid patients. The results of these are expected in the coming weeks.
“If we can find a couple of treatments that tackle the worst excesses of Covid-19, we could make the disease much more manageable, something more like seasonal flu, and that would make a big difference to our lives,” he added. Landray. “The only way to do that is to run accurate and randomized trials.”