Cheap drug could be ‘transformative’ COVID-19 treatment

Data revealed in the presentation suggested that the drug Ivermectin — normally used to treat lice — could cut deaths in hospitals by as much as 80 percent. (File/AFP)
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Updated 04 January 2021

Cheap drug could be ‘transformative’ COVID-19 treatment

Cheap drug could be ‘transformative’ COVID-19 treatment
  • Ivermectin costs as little as $1 per course, could cut mortality rates by as much as 80%

LONDON: Early-stage trials indicate that a cheap and readily available drug has the potential to make “transformative” changes to COVID-19 mortality rates, according to a leaked presentation by Liverpool University scientists.

Data revealed in the presentation suggested that the drug Ivermectin — normally used to treat lice — could cut deaths in hospitals by as much as 80 percent.

In 11 trials involving more than 1,000 patients, those who received the drug appeared to clear themselves of the virus in about half the usual time.

Trials of another 5,000 patients have yet to report their results, but Dr. Andrew Hill, the researcher at Liverpool University who gave the leaked presentation, said they are expected soon.

He emphasized that his data looked only at the so-called “gold-standard” randomized controlled trials, in which patients were randomly assigned the drug or a placebo.

“The combined data may be large enough to get to World Health Organization recommendations for treatment being used worldwide,” Hill said.

“If we see these same trends consistently across more studies, then this really is going to be a transformative treatment.”

He said the anti-parasitic drug could be a particularly important weapon against COVID-19 in the developing world because of its low cost. “It’s very attractive because it costs between $1 and $2 for a treatment course,” Hill added.

Despite the early positive signs, however, other researchers have urged caution over pre-emptively heralding a wonder treatment.

Other drugs such as hydroxychloroquine have previously been touted as major breakthroughs in COVID-19 treatment, only to underperform in large-scale trials.

Oxford University Prof. Peter Horby said he is worried that the mortality data involved too few cases, and that many of the trials analyzed had not been peer reviewed. The new data, he added, is “interesting, perhaps encouraging, but not yet convincing.”

Afghan VP pushes for execution of Taliban prisoners

Afghan VP pushes for execution of Taliban prisoners
Updated 19 January 2021

Afghan VP pushes for execution of Taliban prisoners

Afghan VP pushes for execution of Taliban prisoners
  • Taliban spokesman says first vice president wants to sabotage the peace talks

KABUL: Afghanistan’s First Vice President Amrullah Saleh on Monday demanded the execution of Taliban prisoners as violence surges in the country in spite of US-sponsored talks between the government and the militants.

Under mounting US pressure and following months of delay, Kabul released last summer thousands of Taliban prisoners from its custody as part of the landmark accord between the group and Washington.

But now there has been a spike in arrests of suspected Taliban fighters linked with recent attacks.

“These arrests should be executed so that it becomes a lesson for others,” Saleh told a routine security meeting in Kabul.

“The arrested like nightingales admit (to conducting attacks), but their all hope is that they will be freed one day without real punishment … any terrorist detainee should be executed.”

Known as the staunchest anti-Taliban leader in government and consistently opposed to talks with the Taliban, Saleh said he would raise his demand for the executions in the High Council of the Judiciary. His spokesman, Rezwan Murad, said the first vice president has also shared his demand with President Ashraf Ghani.

“Currently, around 1,000 Taliban prisoners have been sentenced to capital punishment,” Prison Administration spokesman in Kabul, Farhad Bayani, told Arab News.

“Such news is provoking, he wants to sabotage the process of talks,” said Zabihullah Mujahid, a Taliban spokesman, when reached by Arab News for reaction to Saleh’s push.

“We will severely take the revenge of any type of inhuman and cruel treatment of our prisoners.”

The Afghan government was excluded from the US and Taliban deal signed last February in Doha, which as per the agreement is also hosting the current peace talks between Kabul and the insurgents.

In spite of the ongoing talks, violence has surged in Afghanistan and both the government and the Taliban accuse each other for its escalation.

Hundreds of civilians have lost their lives in the violence, which has displaced tens of thousands of people since the February deal, while Kabul has endured a resurgence in assassination attacks and magnet bombs.

Prior to Saleh, some residents and lawmakers also demanded the executions of Taliban members suspected of being behind major attacks. Heather Barr, interim co-director for Human Rights Watch, told Arab News: “Human Rights Watch opposes the use of the death penalty under all circumstances. It is a uniquely cruel and irreversible punishment and we are glad to see that there has been some global progress towards abolition of the death penalty.”

She added: “Afghanistan has already seen so much violence and death and continues to experience this violence every day. There is an urgent need for accountability for the many human rights violations that have been inflicted during Afghanistan’s many years of war, but executions will not bring the justice Afghans so badly need.”