Neither remdesivir NOR hydroxychloroquine lowers the risk of respiratory failure in COVID-19 patients
Two COVID-19 treatments appear to have no effect on helping patients recover from the disease faster, a new study suggests.
Researchers looked at two therapies: remdesivir – which is approved by the US Food and Drug Administration (FDA) for the treatment of Covid and hydroxychloroquine, which is not approved.
They found that neither drug helped reduce the severity of COVID-19 in hospitalized patients, nor did it reduce inflammation, regardless of the patient’s age or how long they had symptoms.
The team, from the University Hospital of Oslo, in Norway, say the findings make the group “question the antiviral potential” of the treatments.
The NOR Solidarity, part of the WHO Solidarity Study, looked at the effects of remdesivir and hydroxychloroquine on hospitalized COVID-19 patients (file image)
Neither drug reduced the rate of respiratory failure or reduced inflammatory markers in COVID-19 patients
The study, known as NOR Solidarity, is affiliated with the World Health Organization (WHO) Solidarity Survey.
During the trial, researchers from different countries compared the effects of different drugs on COVID-19.
Included in the trial are remdesivir, originally intended as a drug to fight Ebola, and an antimalarial drug called hydroxychloroquine.
Remdesivir is currently the only drug fully approved by the US Food and Drug Administration (FDA) to treat COVID-19.
Meanwhile, hydroxychloroquine — used to treat malaria, lupus and arthritis — has been touted by former President Donald Trump, who took a two-week prophylactic drug.
“This would be a gift from heaven, this would be a gift from God if it works,” he said in March 2020. “We’re going to pray to God that it works.”
He then repeated the claims on Twitter.
A French study had found that hydroxychloroquine could help treat coronavirus patients, only if the publisher said a few weeks later it “didn’t meet its standards.”
In a statement published online, the International Society of Antimicrobial Chemotherapy (ISAC) addressed several new concerns with the research.
Officials say they found the researchers excluded data on patients who did not respond well to treatment and did not clarify what they meant when they said patients were “virologically cured.”
For the Norwegian study, published in Annals of Internal Medicine, the team looked at 181 hospitalized COVID-19 patients in 23 hospitals in Norway between March 28, 2020 and October 4, 2020.
Forty-two patients were randomly assigned to receive remdesivir, 52 patients received hydroxychloroquine, and 87 patients received standard of care.
While the WHO study tested the drugs’ effects on mortality, it did not examine either antiviral effect.
The new study looked at the drugs’ effects on the degree of respiratory failure, the degree of respiratory failure and inflammation, and whether or not it could clear the virus in the oropharynx, the middle part of the throat.
The results showed that there was a similar reduction in viral load during the first week of treatment in all three treatment groups.
However, none of the drugs affected the degree of respiratory failure or inflammatory markers in blood samples.
These were consistent despite the patient’s age, duration of symptoms, and antibody development.
The researchers noted in the study that overall mortality in the NOR Solidarity Study was lower than in the WHO Solidarity Study.
However, many factors could be behind it, including strict lockdowns in Norway and lower rates of pre-existing conditions in patients.
‘In conclusion, the overall lack of effect of remdesivir and HCQ on the clinical course of patients hospitalized for COVID-19 was associated with a lack of effect on the viral clearance of SARS-CoV-2 in the oropharynx’, the authors wrote.
“Our findings question the antiviral potential of these drugs in hospitalized patients with COVID-19.”