Trials for COVID-19 Treatments Show Progress


Photo Courtesy of Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

Antiviral medicine remdesivir and plasma therapy are among the treatments undergoing clinical trials to determine effectiveness.

Minnah Tanzeen, Staff Writer

Results of clinical trials for COVID-19 treatments will be available as soon as mid-May from current researchers, according to Reuters.

Researchers are currently testing the antiviral medicine remdesivir in various hospitals, including Hoag Hospital. This treatment was originally developed by biotechnology company Gilead Sciences.

Hundreds of Californians are enrolled in these trials. Twenty-eight patients enrolled in Hoag’s trial for severe illness while another eight were enrolled for moderate illness. The majority of patients have done well according to the OC Register.

The National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases (NIAID) is also testing the treatment in a separate rigorous clinical trial with a trial size of over 800 patients. The trial aims to incorporate a more diverse range of variables, including testing patients with different levels of severity in the disease and determining whether or not the drug is capable of reducing the length of hospitalization and the need for mechanical ventilators.  

The NIAID trial “has all the necessary scientific standards that are really going to help us define if this drug works or not,” Dr. Andre Kalil said according to Reuters. “We are looking for not only a statistical difference, but also for a meaningful clinical improvement.”

Hoag Hospital Irvine has also developed a treatment that involves obtaining  plasma from recovered COVID-19 patients and extracting antibodies from the plasma to treat patients in recovery.

Antibodies work to fight off infections and diseases in the body. Typically, the body develops antibodies when it is exposed to the virus through a vaccine. 

Considering that a vaccine does not yet exist, researchers are still theorizing about what makes an previously infected person’s antibodies successful at fighting off the disease. 

“If you’re so sick that your own antibodies aren’t enough to fight it off, then using other people’s antibodies who were infected and adding them to your antibodies can help fight off the infection,” Dr. Michael Brant-Zawadzki said. 

Developing a vaccine for COVID-19 may prove to be more difficult than developing such treatments. 

“I  think one of the biggest obstacles to creating a vaccine is the human trials that have to be done before the vaccine can go to the market,” nurse James Matejcek said. “That is going to be the biggest issue with getting one available in the near future.” 

There are three levels of rigorous testing and expanded studies needed before the vaccine is put on the market. Some researchers believe that areas with larger outbreaks, such as New York, might see the vaccine sooner. In order for that to happen, the U.S Food & Drug Administration (FDA) would have to approve an emergency use authorization.

Even when the vaccine is developed, there will be a limited supply that will primarily be reserved for healthcare workers and people who live with or care for the elderly according to BBC.