In March 2020, weeks after the initial global spread of SARS-CoV-2, WHO announced a massive international trial of several pre-existing antiviral drugs as potential treatments for COVID-19. The world’s largest randomized controlled trial of drugs for COVID-19, Solidarity, tested four drugs: remdesivir, hydroxychloroquine, lopinavir / ritonavir and interferon.
By the time the study was completed at the end of 2020, it had covered 405 hospitals in 30 countries and enrolled over 11,000 participants. Scientists found that all four tested antiviral drugs had little or no effect on overall mortality or length of hospital stay.
WHO has now launched the second phase of its global research program, Solidarity Plus. As part of this project, experts will study three pre-existing drugs – artesunate, imatinib and infliximab.
All three investigational drugs have anti-inflammatory properties, but work in different ways.
Artesunate is a drug used to treat malaria. Listed on the WHO Model List of Essential Medicines, a list of essential medicines compiled by the World Health Organization.
Imatinib is an antileukemic cytostatic drug, one of the representatives of a new class of targeted cytostatics that selectively affect cells that have certain genetic defects characteristic of tumors.
Infliximab is a specific immunosuppressive drug that selectively suppresses autoimmune reactions due to specific binding to one of the immune cytokines – the so-called “tumor necrosis factor alpha”.
The WHO noted that these drugs do not help patients in the early stages of the disease. In fact, if immunosuppressants are given too early in the course of an illness, it can make the situation much worse.