Caribbean islanders will be asked to participate in a clinical study on four drugs that are hoped to be potential treatments for COVID-19.
The University of the West Indies (UWI) will carry out the studies at their campuses in T&T, Barbados, Jamaica and the Bahamas once approved.
Announcing the study at yesterday’s Ministry of Health virtual media conference, UWI’s dean of the Faculty of Medical Sciences Prof Terrence Seemugal said it will form part of the global search for drugs that are effective against the virus. The study entails administering COVID-19 patients with the medication, Remdesivar, Ritonavir, Interferon Beta and Hydroxychloroquine. Researchers will compare patients’ reaction to the medications to those who under the standard care offered at hospitals.
“The World Health Organisation (WHO) came up with a study which they called Solidarity and this is a large international trial that will be looking at options for therapy. It is proposed that the study be done throughout the countries which the University of the West Indies are and that would be Trinidad, the Bahamas, Barbados and Jamaica.
“We have a committee across the four countries that is chaired by one of our colleagues, Prof Marvin Reid of the Mona Campus,” Seemungal said.
UWI submitted proposals to the ethic committees of the Ministry of Health and the UWI. Once approved, the committee will establish a date for the start of the trial. Seemungal said patients will have the option of enrolling in the study and once they do, they will have to sign consent forms. The study would use the randomised process so patients cannot determine which course of drugs they prefer. As to the length of the study, Seemungal said it is based on the course of each prescription.
” So one will be about 10 days; another one, about seven and another one, about two weeks. It depends on which arm of the study you are in.”
In recent media conferences, Deyalsingh responded to questions on drugs being used to treat COVID-19 patients in other countries, saying that these findings were anecdotal. Last month, he urged those who purchased the anti-malaria drugs chloroquine and hydroxychloroquine to return it to the pharmacies as they were not approved for COVID-19 treatment. He added that lupus patients needed them for treatment. On Monday, he told the Parliament that hydroxychloroquine kills people. It was a drug touted by US President Donald Trump as a potential treatment but the US Food and Drug Administration cautioned against its use for COVID-19 outside of the hospital setting or a clinical trial due to risk of heart rhythm problems. Seemugal said they have not found any reliable drugs so far.
While clinical trials are not 100 per cent safe, they are necessary for medical innovation. Seemungal said it was important to note the many times when drugs are used globally, the studies were not based on Caribbean patients. Therefore, it is usually unknown how locals will react to them.
“We assume it is the same as those in the American countries and Europe where a lot of studies are done. So this is a chance for us to be part of an international approach to treatment. Will we get enough patients involved in the study? Time will tell, but other smaller studies were done here in the Caribbean. We have had an enrollment of patients and it is up to the public to decide if someone wishes to take part. No one is going to be forced to take part in any study.”