FactCheck: How close are we to a cure for Coronavirus? – Channel 4 News


In recent days, we have seen disappointing results reported in trials of drugs touted as potential treatments for Covid-19.

Doctors have been trying to save the lives of people infected with the coronavirus for the past year, and a range of more commonly used drugs to fight malaria, block viruses and suppress the immune system have all been suggested as possible treatments.

But the results have not been conclusive, and US medical officials are currently saying that no drug has been proven to work against Covid-19.


This antiviral drug was developed by the American pharmaceutical giant Gilead Sciences for the treatment of Ebola.

It has been touted as showing an early promise in the fight against Covid-19, but there have been confused reports of its effectiveness in recent days.

Last week, the American health news site Stat published enthusiastic comments made during a video chat by scientists from the University of Chicago, which is participating in phase III clinical trials of remdesivir sponsored by Gilead.

The comments seemed to suggest that doctors had seen promising results for some critically ill patients.

The university and Gilead said people should not draw conclusions about the trials until the full data is released.

The scientists pointed out that in any event, this particular trial is not a randomized double-blind placebo-controlled trial, and will therefore be of limited value to tell us how effective remdesivir is as a treatment.

Considered the gold standard in medical studies, a placebo-controlled trial would see a group of patients receiving the drug alongside a control group of patients receiving the same treatment but placebo instead (“double-blind” means that neither patients nor doctors know who received the placebo).

A “malnourished” Chinese study

Several trials of this nature are underway around the world. Gilead provided researchers with free remdesivir but does not control how the studies are done.

Full results have not yet been released, but some drafts of a Chinese trial with 237 patients were published, apparently accidentally, on the WHO website on Thursday before being quickly withdrawn.

The summary published on the WHO website indicates that remdesivir was not associated with “a time difference from clinical improvement” or “clinical or virological benefits”.

Gilead said in a statement that the post “included inappropriate study characterizations”, adding: “The study was terminated early due to the low enrollment rate and, therefore, was insufficient to allow conclusions statistically significant.

“As such, the results of the study are inconclusive, although trends in the data suggest a potential benefit for remdesivir, particularly in patients treated early in the disease. “

Experts say we will have to wait for appropriate data from larger randomized controlled trials later this year to find out if remdesivir works.


This well-known antimalarial drug, often better known in its variant form of hydroxychloroquine, became known last month when US President Donald Trump expressed optimism that it could be a game-changer in the fight against Covid-19 .

Since then, the drug has been disappointing.

Concerns were expressed about a French study that sparked great interest in hydroxychloroquine after reporting the dramatic results of a 20-patient trial.

The International Society for Antimicrobial Chemotherapy, which publishes the journal where the results were first reported, said the article “does not meet the expected standards of the Society, particularly regarding the lack of better explanations inclusion criteria and patient triage to ensure patient safety ”.

Another study of 368 patients at a United States Army veterans hospital found an increased risk of death in patients treated with hydroxychloroquine, administered with and without the antibiotic azithromycin.

The study is the largest of its kind, but falls short of the gold standard for medical evidence. Again, randomized controlled trials of chloroquine are underway worldwide and we will have to wait for adequate evidence.

Ritonavir / lopinavir

This combination of drugs has been used successfully to prevent and treat HIV and AIDS. Again, this seemed to be a promising Covid-19 treatment.
But a Chinese study reported this week that the treatment had “little benefit” for patients.

The researchers only reported data on 86 patients. Again, much larger and better designed trials are underway.

Professor Ian Jones, professor of virology at the University of Reading, said: “We are starting to see a number of first reports of drug trials and the results in general are disappointing.

“In this case, the drugs were by far because they were developed for different viruses, not specifically for coronaviruses. “

He added, “Ideally, drug therapy should follow an early diagnosis when symptoms are barely present. It is therefore too early to abandon Covid drug therapy.

“When the time comes, they could still impact the disease, improve recovery and limit the spread of the virus. More trials with earlier drugs are needed. “

Many trials, other drugs

There are many trials going on around the world to test all of the drugs we’ve talked about so far.

Scientists are also testing an anti-inflammatory steroid called dexamethasone and beta-interferon, a drug that suppresses the immune system and is used to treat multiple sclerosis.

There are many other potential treatments for the study coronavirus patients. In fact, more than 300 trials are underway worldwide to assess various drugs or combinations.

And of course, clinical trials are also underway for a number of possible vaccines.


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