WHO launches next phase of its COVID-19 Solidarity clinical trial

The unprecedented WHO-led global collaboration for COVID-19 research will assess three drugs across 52 countries.

The World Health Organization (WHO) has announced the next phase of its Solidarity trial which will assess three new drugs in hospitalized COVID-19 patients. Called Solidarity PLUS, the trial will explore whether three anti-inflammatory drugs have the potential to treat COVID-19 patients. The therapies - artesunate, imatinib and infliximab – were chosen by an independent panel of experts who believe they have the potential to reduce the risk of death in hospitalized COVID-19 patients. The anti-inflammatory drugs which are already being used for other indications have been donated by their manufacturers. Artesunate, which is produced by Ipca, is used to treat severe malaria. Novartis’ imatinib is used for certain cancers while Johnson & Johnson’s infliximab is used for auto-immune diseases such as Crohn’s Disease and rheumatoid arthritis.

“Finding more effective and accessible therapeutics for COVID-19 patients remains a critical need, and WHO is proud to lead this global effort,” said Dr Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus, WHO Director-General. With an unprecedented 52 countries taking part, the trial said to run until May 2022 will be the largest global collaboration of its kind among WHO Member States. African countries taking part include Botswana, Egypt, Ethiopia, Kenya, Mali, Mozambique, Niger, Nigeria, Sierra Leone and Zimbabwe. “I would like to thank the participating governments, pharmaceutical companies, hospitals, clinicians and patients, who have come together to do this in true global solidarity,” added Tedros. The predecessor Solidarity trial which evaluated four drugs showed that “remdesivir, hydroxychloroquine, lopinavir and interferon had little or no effect on hospitalized patients with COVID-19”.