The World Health Organization (WHO) on Wednesday announced its plan to study three potential treatments for COVID-19 patients in its existing trial that spans across 52 countries.
As part of the new phase in the trial, researchers will test the effects of three anti-inflammatory drugs among hospitalized COVID-19 patients. The manufacturers of the drugs — artesunate, imatinib and infliximab — donated them to be studied for the trial.
Ipca Laboratories' artesunate has been used to treat severe malaria, Novartis’s imatinib for certain cancers and Johnson & Johnson’s infliximab for immune system diseases, including Crohn's disease.
“These therapies ... were selected by an independent expert panel for their potential in reducing the risk of death in hospitalized COVID-19 patients,” the WHO said in a press release.
Researchers in more than 600 hospitals in 52 countries will participate in the study in what the WHO called “an unprecedented global collaboration for COVID-19.”
The WHO’s trial previously involved fewer countries and determined that remdesivir, hydroxychloroquine, lopinavir and interferon had “little or no effect” on hospitalized COVID-19 patients.
“Finding more effective and accessible therapeutics for COVID-19 patients remains a critical need, and WHO is proud to lead this global effort,” WHO Director-General Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus said in a statement.
For the study, artesunate will be given intravenously for seven days, imatinib will be taken orally daily for 15 days and infliximab will be given intravenously in one dose.
The trial comes as more than 200 million COVID-19 cases have been confirmed globally, leading to more than 4.3 million deaths, according to data from Johns Hopkins University.
More than 4 billion doses of the COVID-19 vaccine have been administered worldwide, but experts have said treatments will also be necessary to get through the pandemic.
Earlier in the summer, the Biden administration announced its plans to invest more than $3 billion in antiviral pills to treat COVID-19.