Corona Vaccine Trials and Plausible Treatment Options

  • May 28, 2020 BST
  • Team Kalkine
Corona Vaccine Trials and Plausible Treatment Options

The death toll for UK due to corona infection has crossed 37,000 on May 27. This rate is the second highest in the world, after the US, where more than 97,000 people died till date. The number of confirmed corona infected cases is also high in Britain; being more than 2.65 lakh.

Early this May, the British government vowed to provide collective funding support worth £388 million towards COVID-19 vaccine research, its testing and its cure. Out of this large kitty, investment has been getting released in phases over the past weeks. £18.5 million was released on My 17 for the Imperial College of London. Another £65.5 million fund support has been given on the same day to the University of Oxford for the vaccine trials.

The Oxford trial includes one of the many experimental Covid-19 vaccines in second and advanced stages of human testing. In the present scenario, Oxford University is recruiting children and adults for Phase II and III of human trials of a likely CIVID-19 vaccine. The results of the first phase are under consideration.

Oxford University signs Agreement with AstraZeneca

The Oxford University’s Jenner Institute has also signed an agreement on April 30th this year with the Anglo Swedish pharma major AstraZeneca Plc (LON: AZN) for manufacturing the vaccine, once it is created.

COVID-19 Oxford Vaccine Trial

(Source: Oxford University)

 

The vaccine ChAdOx1 nCoV-19, currently being tested at the University is named AZD1222. The company has promised in the agreement that it will provide 30 million doses of the vaccine by the month of September this year, for UK citizens. It is also looking for more partnerships to take the potential vaccine across the world. In fact, on May 19, it got an order from the US Biomedical Advanced Research and Development Authority to deliver the vaccine by this fall season. The order is worth a million US dollars.

Status of Oxford COVID-19 vaccine human trials

Phase

Number of participants

Status

Results

I

1000

Complete

Week 1, June

II

10260

Recruitment is ongoing, phase II & III being merged for speedier development

-

III

Not Available

-

(Source: Oxford University)

Oxford University will be sharing the results of the first trial conducted on 1000 plus volunteers in the first week of June 2020. This trail was conducted in the month of April this year.

Other pharma majors who have joined the race to develop the vaccine are Moderna, the American Biotechnology Company and Sanofi, the French pharma multinational. This trend suggests that once the vaccine gets developed, it could be accessible globally, which is good.

Even though scientists are trying hard to find a vaccine, they have not been able to get a breakthrough yet. Despite their vigorous attempts, it is a possibility that the country may never be able to make a COVID-19 vaccine, remarked the UK Business Secretary Alok Sharma on May 18.

In such a baffling scenario, no stone is being left unturned, exploring all plausible options.

Possible treatment options with already existing drugs

 Hydroxychloroquine

Can an already existing medicine fit the bill?  We don’t really know, but trials for the same are going on. A much-debated such medicine is that of Hydroxychloroquine, usually used to treat malaria. It is undergoing investigations to be able to treat corona infection, but no positive evidence is seen as of now.  The drug has antiviral and anti-inflammation effects, and early studies are indicative that it may work against COVID-19. The results of Hydroxychloroquine trails on corona patients are not still inconclusive, and for some studies, few patients did witness higher death rates than those who were not given its dosage. However, clinical trials on the effectiveness of this medicine are still going on across the world. On May 18 US President Donald Trump shared that he has been popping up Hydroxychloroquine, as a medicine to prevent corona infection, for the past two weeks and he has been triumphant. Brazilian president, Jair Bolsonaro is also claiming to be taking the same drug to prevent corona. The country has reported almost 3 lakh corona infected patients till date, third largest in the world, with the death toll touching 19000.

 

A new study has started since May 19, to be conducted on the Brighton and Oxford frontline healthcare staff. It will check if Hydroxychloroquine could eradicate the corona infection. This study is being conducted by the Bangkok-based Mahidol Oxford Tropical Medicine Research Unit (MORU).

There is a trigger by the UK government to go in for bulk buys of this drug Hydroxychloroquine and it has put out a £35 million contract on May 15, to buy this drug along with chloroquine, chloroquine phosphate, lopinavir-ritonavir and azithromycin. 16 million tablets in 200 mg or 250 mg power are being sought for the purchase of Hydroxychloroquine. But for the time being, the government maintains that the drug should be taken only if prescribed by the doctor, not otherwise.  

At the same time, the government of the United Kingdom has banned export or hoarding of three particular drugs namely lopinavir-ritonavir, chloroquine and Hydroxychloroquine. Even wholesale drug dealers were not allowed to hoard. This has been done to prevent any future shortage of these medicines, mainly for UK patients. Restrictions on chloroquine were put in place in February while those on Hydroxychloroquine in March this year. With this, the total number of restricted drugs has moved up to 116, which is so far the biggest count. The common medicine administered for fever; paracetamol is also a part of this list.

Chloroquine

Chloroquine is also used as an anti-malarial medicine, essentially obtained from quinolone. It was developed in the year 1934 by Bayer pharma. Despite some corona treatment trails with this drug going on, no positive results have been declared for the time being. 

Lopinavir-ritonavir

The lopinavir-ritonavir drug combination is used to treat and prevent HIV (human immunodeficiency virus) and AIDS (acquired immunodeficiency syndrome) diseases. No clinically proven benefits have emerged so far from the trail usage of this rug combo as well.

Azithromycin

Another drug that is drawing a lot of attention in an attempt to treat COVID-19 is azithromycin. It is an antibiotic that prevents bacterial growth in the human body. Since the drug has proved to be effective in preliminary trials against Ebola virus, its effectiveness in treating corona is also being tested.  

Short supply of medicines due to Brexit

In October last year, the government had put out a restricted medicine list for the first time, to check the drug shortage in the post-Brexit scenario.

Despite these bans, more than 200 medicines are already in short supply across the nation. Medicine hoarding had already begun way back post the Brexit disruption last year. Brexit had also worsened the National Health Service (NHS) workforce supply, with uncertainty for UK nationals living in the EU. It is worth a mention that the European Medicines Authority had relocated to the Netherlands from Britain in March 2019.

With the corona infections still going up daily in the UK, we will need to wait and watch for the corona vaccine’s development and availability and possible treatment options with other common drugs under clinical trials.

 


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