Covid-19: what you need to know today
Regular readers of this column are aware that my reading of scientific journals and articles increased significantly (actually went from 0 to 60 in less than 10 seconds, to borrow a metaphor from the auto business) during the car disease pandemic. coronavirus.
With a handful of vaccines for phase 3 elimination trials of Covid-19; the vaccination of the general population in the UK from Tuesday; and a domestically developed vaccine requesting emergency use authorization (based on Phase 1/2 data, but more on this shortly), I recalled a May article in the British Journal of Pharmacology that stated that Identifying a drug or drugs to treat coronavirus disease would take less time than the 12-18 months it would take to develop a vaccine. A year and 10 days have passed between the first published account of the rare disease in Wuhan, China, and the administration of a vaccine that has approved Phase 3 trials to a member of the general population, so the authors of that article understood that. Right. But they were completely wrong about the drugs.
A handful of antiretrovirals that initially showed promise don’t work. Neither does hydroxychloroquine (HCQ). Remdesivir mostly does not work. The same is the case with most autoimmune therapies. And plasma therapy also doesn’t seem effective in most cases. Monoclonal antibodies can work, but the treatment is expensive. In fact, the only drugs that have been conclusively shown to work in treating Covid-19 are steroids like dexamethasone. That begs the question why hospitals continue to treat people with some of these (expensive) drugs and therapies, but I will carry on in the spirit of caveat emptor and all that …
Still, it is surprising that we now have not one or two, but a set of successful vaccines that can prevent Covid-19, but only one drug that can treat it.
Also read: The University of Oxford-AstraZeneca is the first to publish the results of the trial of the Covid-19 vaccine in final stage
Then there are the promising candidate vaccines, including Bharat Biotech’s Covaxin, Made in India, which applied for emergency use approval on Monday. I am a bit surprised by the request for regulatory approval. The company began its phase 3 trials on November 11. Based on available information, the trial involves injecting people with two doses of the vaccine or a placebo at a 28-day interval and then waiting 14 days to test efficacy. That would mean that even provisional data from Phase 3 trials will be available only at the end of December. It also suggests that regulatory approval is sought based on unpublished Phase 1/2 data (so far). If the company wanted to apply for emergency use approval based on this, it could have done so at any time and it is unclear why it has waited until now.
Indeed, the mere fact that the company has moved from Phase 1/2 to Phase 3 combined trials, and that these have been approved by the drug regulator, suggests that the Phase 1/2 results were successful, that the vaccine elicited an immune response in the small sample of people tested. But as much as I would love to see a local vaccine become available soon, the benefits of this are enormous, it is important that due process is followed. The developer and its partner, the Indian Council of Medical Research, are required to publish the Phase 1/2 data. And the drug regulator may do well to wait at least interim data from Phase 3 trials before approving the vaccine.
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More of a digression than a post script: My colleague and the person who has edited more of these columns than anyone else in the newsroom used to be one of the best sports journalists in the country. Your usual comments about my column are two-dimensional. One, about the quality of the spine itself, and whether, in your opinion, it has covered new ground (it gets more difficult as the number keeps increasing, I can tell you). And two, about the importance of number cricket: he started doing this after Dispatch crossed the 100 mark. But even I know the meaning of 221 (today’s number): it was Sunil Gavaskar’s epic double century in a failed 438-inning chase in the fourth inning (required in 445 minutes and mandatory 20 overs) at The Oval. The match was ultimately tied, with India remaining nine short runs and two wickets in hand. Many consider it Gavaskar’s best entry. Some believe the party saw the best persecution in India. He also challenged the limits of possibility. Like the development of vaccines.