As several experimental drugs moving in and out of laboratories, Gilead Sciences Inc takes a step closer to the much-needed cure for patients infected with Coronavirus. The medical research firm disclosed the progress in a recent report.
There are other clinical trials underway but that of Gilead Sciences showed more promise after 53 confirmed cases in the U.S., Europe and Canada received the experimental drug, remdesivir. They had been enrolled in a compassionate program that allows the use of unapproved medicines in the absence of alternative treatment.
Gilead tracked the patients who needed respiratory support or machine to help them breathe. According to a report, half of the selected patients were receiving mechanical ventilation, while four were placed on a heart-lung by-pass machine, however, eight additional patients were left out of the analysis: dosing error affected one, while lack of information on how seven patients fared left them excluded.
Good, but not there yet: But after taking remdesivir for 10 days, 68% of the patients reportedly improved, while 17 of the 30 patients on mechanical ventilation were able to get off the breathing device after over 18 days. It was also disclosed that almost half of the patients studied were ultimately discharged.
[READ MORE: Covid-19 Update in Nigeria)
However, 13% of the patients that were studied died, and the highest mortality rate was traced to patients on ventilators, as 18% of them were said to be dying.
“We cannot draw definitive conclusions from these data, but the observations from this group of hospitalized patients who received remdesivir are hopeful,” said lead author Jonathan Grein, director of hospital epidemiology at Cedars-Sinai Medical Center in Los Angeles in a statement from Gilead.
Death during trial not a failure: Despite the deaths recorded during the trial, medical researchers believe the information gathered during the trials can do the trick. Speaking on the study of remdesivir, Gilead’s Chairman and Chief Executive Officer, Daniel O’Day said information is vital to finding a solution.
“In studying remdesivir, the question is not just whether it is safe and effective against Covid-19, but in which patients it shows activity, how long should they receive treatment and at what stage of their disease would treatment be most beneficial.
“Many answers are needed, which is why we need multiple types of studies involving many types of patients.”
What you need to know about remdesivir: The experimental drug has been used to treat Ebola patients in Eastern Congo prior to the Coronavirus outbreak, but it wasn’t effective. However, at the time, it was labelled safe for the body, which allowed scientists to test it on COVID-19 patients.
Researchers at the University of North Carolina and Vanderbilt University said it is potent to treat other forms of coronaviruses which are similar to the COVID-19. But one out of four of the COVID-19 patients experienced side effects after usage. It was reported that they experienced multiple-organ dysfunction syndrome, septic shock, acute kidney injury and low blood pressure.
Meanwhile, four patients had to stop receiving infusions of the drug entirely and 23% showed signs of liver damage on laboratory tests.
It’s cheap, but there’s a problem: The drug was reportedly made with $9, however, its cost could increase considering administering cost. Also, with the number of cases increasing globally, with US recording over 500,000, there might not be much to go round globally in a short time.
Though it is cheap, the drug is hard to make and according to Gilead, by October 2020, it will only be able to produce 500,000 treatment courses and more than 1 million by year-end. Note that production timeframe has been reduced to six months from one year.
The race to make a cure: The Foster City, California-based company provided the medication and also helped analyze the results. While the experimental drug is not yet at the final stage, it gives hope amidst rise of mortality due to COVID-19 globally. There are over 1.6 million cases, with over 100,000 deaths.
[READ ALSO: Lagos discharges 7 more coronavirus patients)
Aside from Gilead Sciences multiple trials, in China, remdesivir trial is also ongoing and the results could be disclosed this month. The U.S. National Institutes of Health is also sponsoring a trial on the experimental drug, and according to Bloomberg, has enrolled patients massively; there could be a disclosure on their progress in the coming weeks.
Apart from remdesivir, there are clinical trials on hydroxychloroquine and chloroquine supported by COVID-19 Accelerator, led by Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation as previously reported by Nairametrics.
WHO warns Africa in danger of being left behind in Covid-19 vaccination
The WHO has warned that Africa is in danger of being left behind in Covid-19 vaccination.
The World Health Organisation (WHO) has warned that Africa is in danger of being left behind in Covid-19 vaccination as countries from other regions strike bilateral deals, thereby driving up prices.
This follows the development and approval of safe and effective vaccine less than a year after the emergence of the coronavirus pandemic, regarded as a stunning achievement.
This disclosure was made by the WHO’s Regional Director for Africa, Dr Matshidiso Moeti while speaking during a virtual press conference which was facilitated by APO Group.
Dr Moeti was joined at the press briefing by the Managing Director, Country Programmes, Gavi, Thabani Maphosa and UNICEF Regional Director for Eastern and Southern Africa, Mohamed Fall.
What the WHO’s Regional Director for Africa is saying
Dr Moeti stated that as of early this week, 40 million Covid-19 vaccine doses have been administered in 50 mostly high-income countries with Guinea being the only low-income country on the continent to have provided doses to only 25 people so far.
According to her, Seychelles is the only high-income country on the continent where a national Covid-19 vaccination campaign has started.
She said, “We first, not me first, is the only way to end the pandemic. Vaccine hoarding will only prolong the ordeal and delay Africa’s recovery. It is deeply unjust that the most vulnerable Africans are forced to wait for vaccines while lower-risk groups in rich countries are made safe.
“Health workers and vulnerable people in Africa need urgent access to safe and effective COVID-19 vaccines.’’
What the Managing Director, Country Programmes, GAVI, is saying
Mr Thabani Maphosa, the Managing Director, Country Programmes at GAVI, a partner in the alliance, was quoted as saying delivery would begin soon.
He said, “COVAX is on track to start delivering vaccine doses and begin ensuring global access to vaccines. This massive international undertaking has been made possible thanks to donations work towards dose-sharing deals and deals with manufacturers that have brought us to almost 2 billion doses secured. We look forward to rollout in the coming weeks.”
What you should know
- COVAX facility is an international alliance which is backed by the WHO, Gavi, the vaccine alliance and Coalition for Epidemic Preparedness Innovations (CEPI), to ensure equitable distribution of the Covid-19 vaccines among all countries regardless of income level.
- The alliance has secured 2 billion doses of the Covid-19 vaccine for Africa from 5 producers, with options of over 1 billion more doses.
- COVAX has committed to vaccinating no fewer than 20% of the population in Africa by the end of 2021.
- Priority will be given to health workers and other vulnerable groups, such as older persons and those with pre-existing health conditions.
- An initial 30 million vaccine doses are expected to begin arriving in countries by March.
- The United Nations in its report said that a maximum of 600 million doses will be disbursed, based on 2 doses per person.
COVID-19: Evidence suggests that new variants could pose challenge for vaccines
The research findings show that the new COVID variants may likely not respond well to the vaccines.
Recent research findings suggest that the new coronavirus variants would likely pose a big challenge for the vaccines, as revealed by studies by several medical researchers.
The new variant was first discovered in South Africa in October but has now been spread to more than a dozen countries all over the world.
According to the most recent findings, as reported by CNN, researchers took antibodies from six people who were hospitalized with Covid-19 before the new variant was discovered. They found to varying degrees, that the antibodies for all six of the survivors were unable to fully fight off the virus.
According to Alex Sigal, a virologist at the Africa Health Research Institute and the Max Planck Institute for Infection Biology, “I think the evidence is building that these mutations — and I think other mutations — will emerge across the globe — and are emerging already — that are escaping antibodies from previous infection. It’s concerning.”
According to Jesse Bloom, a virologist at the Fred Hutchinson Cancer Research Center, “When you see two groups independently arriving at same basic answer, that good — there’s more consonance that they are correct”
What you should know
- Sigal’s findings were very similar to those of a recent study by the National Institute for Communicable Diseases in South Africa.
- A research study has revealed that mutations in the new variant allowed them to evade some of the immunity induced by vaccination, but it was far from a complete escape.
- One thing that is critically safe for everyone is to get vaccinated, while the researchers are working to confirm whether these variants are dangerous or not to contain with the vaccines.
- According to Alex Sigal, “I would for sure get it if I could. My father-in-law had the opportunity to fly to Israel and get it, and I was shooing him out of the house because you can’t get it here in South Africa.”
- In a research study done at Rockefeller University, from a sample of 20 people who had received either the Moderna or the Pfizer vaccine, it was found that different mutations in the viruses did allow some escape from some types of antibodies, but the volunteers’ immune systems threw an army of different types of antibodies at the viruses.
- According to the research conducted in South Africa, blood was drawn from 44 people who had Covid-19 but the antibodies of about half of the 44 people were powerless against the new variant, while the other half, their antibody responses were weakened, but not totally knocked out.
Covid-19: Buhari approves N6.45 billion to set up 38 oxygen production plants
President Buhari has approved the sum of N6.45 billion for the set-up of 38 oxygen production plants across the country.
President Muhammadu Buhari has announced his approval of N6.45 billion for the set-up of 38 oxygen production plants across the country, in a bid to contain the second wave of Covid-19.
The President disclosed this in a statement on Thursday evening after the first National Economic Council meeting of the year presided over by Vice President Yemi Osinbajo, SAN, with State Governors, Federal Capital Territory Minister, Central Bank Governor, and other senior government officials in attendance.
“As part of efforts to contain the second wave of Covid-19, we’re setting up new oxygen production plants in 38 locations across Nigeria—to enhance the management of patients in need of oxygen.
“I have equally approved funding for the rehabilitation of oxygen plants in 5 hospitals,” Buhari said.
The Minister of Finance, Budget and National Planning, Zainab Ahmed said the President said the fund’s release was necessitated by the rising cases of Covid-19 in the country with patients needing oxygen.
What you should know
- Recall Nairametrics reported that the Lagos State Governor, Babajide Sanwo-Olu, warned that the rising second wave of the pandemic in Lagos had seen the demand for oxygen rise 5 times from 70 six-liter cylinders per day to 350 six-liter cylinders at Yaba Mainland Hospital alone.
- He added that the state government had the decentralized provision of oxygen and other services needed for Covid-19 patients, citing the provision of oxygen kiosks.