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Australian experts on COVID-19 treatments

Health Industry Hub | March 23, 2020 |

Medical News: To date over 100 human clinical trials have been registered to assess different treatments against COVID-19. Australian experts share their views on the most promising candidates.

According to Dr Gaetan Burgio, from the John Curtin School of Medical Research at ANU, “A recent report demonstrated that anti HIV treatment doesn’t seem to work on COVID-19. There is lots of talk about the use of the antimalarial chloroquine or hydroxychloroquine as a possible treatment against COVID-19. However as the results of the clinical trials are inconclusive and debated, it is too early to tell whether these antimalarials would be efficacious against COVID-19. As hydroxychloroquine is widely used to treat patients with Lupus, I urge people not to stockpile this medicine so that Lupus patients can be treated.”

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“We ultimately need to find a vaccine, which will be the most effective way of stopping the spread. The vaccine needs to be developed and tested, going through the phases of a drug trial I through to III. All other treatments may have antiviral components, which helps speeds up the process of getting well, but this virus is no different to influenza or the common cold. We don’t have a one-size-fits-all drugs that fixes all viruses.” commented Professor Bruce Thompson, Dean of Health at Swinburne University.

Dr Phillip Reece, an Honorary Senior Fellow in the Department of Pharmacology and Therapeutics at the University of Melbourne, said “Remdesivir is an experimental treatment developed by Gilead. It was being developed for Ebola infections and has shown activity against COVID-19 in laboratory experiments.  It is not marketed and has been made available on a compassionate use basis to treat at least two patients with COVID-19 infections. It appeared to be effective in these cases but I have not seen the evidence. Clinical trials are underway in China and elsewhere with remdesivir to establish its efficacy against COVID-19 infections in a larger number of patients. It may be some weeks or months before we know the results of these trials.
 
“Clinical studies are also underway to determine whether some marketed treatments for HIV (lopinavir and ritonavir) are effective against COVID-19 infections. Together with another marketed drug, ribavirin, they may be effective when used in combination against COVID-19. Again results from these trials are some way off.

As for a cure, it is possible that some of these drugs and their combinations might reduce the severity and duration of symptoms of COVID-19 infections in patients if started early. This is much like the situation with influenza where administration of antivirals such as Relenza and Tamiflu within 48 hours of the first signs of the infection, can reduce the duration of symptoms by up to two or three days. Relenza and Tamiflu have also been shown to reduce morbidity and reduce mortality.” he concluded.

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