Two COVID-19 treatments do not seem to have any effect in helping patients recover from the disease more quickly, a new study suggests.
Researchers looked at two therapies: remdesivir – which is approved by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) to treat Covid and hydroxychloroquine, which is not approved.
They found that neither drug helped decrease the severity of COVID-19 in hospitalized patients nor lowered inflammation no matter what the patient’s age was or how long they had had symptoms for.
The team, from Oslo University Hospital, in Norway, says the findings have the group ‘questioning the antiviral potential’ of the treatments.
The NOR-Solidarity, part of the WHO-Solidarity trial, looked at the effects of remdesivir and hydroxychloroquine on hospitalized COVID-19 patients (file image)
Neither of the drugs reduced the degree respiratory failure or lowered inflammatory markers in COVID-19 patients
Known as NOR-Solidarity, the study is affiliated with the World Health Organization’s (WHO) Solidarity trial.
The trial sees researchers from several different countries compare the effects of different drugs on COVID-19.
Included in the trial are remdesivir, originally conceived as a drug to fight Ebola, and an anti-malaria drug called hydroxychloroquine.
Remdesivir is currently the only drug fully approved by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) to treat COVID-19.
Meanwhile, hydroxychloroquine – used to treat malaria, lupus and arthritis – has touted by former President Donald Trump, who took a two-week regimen of the drug as a prophylactic.
‘This would be a gift from heaven, this would be a gift from God if it works,’ he said on March 2020. ‘We are going to pray to God that it does work.’
He then repeated the claims on Twitter.
A French study had found hydroxychloroquine could help treat coronavirus patients only for the publisher to say it ‘did not meet its standards’ a few weeks later.
In a statement published online, the International Society of Antimicrobial Chemotherapy (ISAC) addressed several new concerns with the research.
Officials say they found out the researchers excluded data on patients who didn’t respond well to the treatment and that they did not clarify what they meant when they said patients were ‘virologically cured.’
For the Norwegian study, published in Annals of Internal Medicine, the team looked at 181 hospitalized COVID-19 patients in 23 hospitals in Norway between March 28, 2020 and October 4, 2020.
Forty-two patients were randomly assigned to receive remdesivir, 52 patients to receive hydroxychloroquine and 87 patients to receive standard care.
While the WHO’s trial has tested the drugs’ effects on mortality, it had not examined either of their antiviral effects.
The new study looked at the drugs’ effects on the degree of respiratory failure, the degree of and inflammation and whether or not it could clear the virus in the oropharynx, which is the middle part of the throat.
Results showed that in all three treatment groups, there were similar decreases in viral loads during the first week of treatment.
However, neither of the drugs affected the degree respiratory failure or inflammatory markers in blood samples.
These were consistent despite the patient’s age, duration of symptoms and whether or not he or she developed antibodies.
The researchers noted in the study that overall mortality in the NOR-Solidarity trial was lower than in the WHO-Solidarity trial.
However, there could be many factors behind this including strict lockdowns in Norway as well as lower rates of pre-existing conditions in patients.
‘In conclusion, the overall lack of effect of remdesivir and HCQ on the clinical course of patients hospitalized for COVID-19 was accompanied by a paucity of effect on SARS-CoV-2 viral clearance in the oropharynx,’ the authors wrote.
‘Our findings question the antiviral potential of these drugs in hospitalized patients with COVID-19.’