LONDON: Oxford University researchers are planning to trial a drug that has shown signs of reducing COVID-19 deaths in developing countries.
The Principle trial is aiming to find a drug that works soon after virus symptoms appear in a patient, and one that is most effective during the primary stages of the illness, The Times reported.
The trial is assessing Ivermectin, a medicine used on livestock and people who have been infected by parasitic worms, which has been hailed by some as a “wonder drug” with the potential to save thousands of lives, the report added.
Other scientists said the drug had not been assessed properly and that the full extent of its efficacy was not yet known.
“It has potential antiviral properties and anti-inflammatory properties and there have been quite a few smaller trials conducted in low and middle- income countries, showing that it speeds recovery, reduces inflammation and reduces hospitalisation,” said Chris Butler, professor of primary care at Oxford and co-chief of the Principle trial. “But there’s a gap in the data. There’s not been a really rigorous trial.”
The medicine works by blocking the entry of a protein into a cell’s nuclei, limiting the replication capacity of the virus, and initial analysis from the World Health Organization has shown promising signs.
“It could save thousands of lives a day,” said Paul Marik, from the Eastern Virginia Medical School. “The data is compelling: across Mexico, India and South America, mortality has fallen.”
Peter Horby, the Oxford University professor who helped to set up the UK’s largest COVID-19 trials, said this month the latest data was “interesting, perhaps encouraging, but not yet convincing.”
Most breakthroughs in coronavirus treatments to date work on patients who are already suffering in the later stages of the illness, but Butler and his team are hoping to find a medicine that can prevent the virus from taking hold within its host.
The trial is looking for people aged 65 and over, or those aged over 50 who have underlying health conditions, through general practitioners, online, and through the UK’s NHS Test and Trace system, The Times said.