EXCLUSIVE: Kenya to Start Testing Four Covid-19 Drugs on Patients

  • A photo of Kenya Red Cross paramedics and volunteers at the Nakuru County Level 5 Hospital during a training exercise on the proper use of Personal Protective Equipment (PPEs) in light of the Covid-19 pandemic on Saturday, March 15, 2020.
    Kenya Red Cross paramedics and volunteers at the Nakuru County Level 5 Hospital during a training exercise on the proper use of Personal Protective Equipment (PPEs) in light of the Covid-19 pandemic on Saturday, March 15, 2020.
    File
  • Kenya has applied to be one of the nations to participate in clinical trials for four COVID-19 treatments.

    The four drugs Remdesivir, Lopinavir/Ritonavir, Interferon Beta-1a and Chloroquine, as well as hydroxychloroquine, are part of the World Health Organisation's Solidarity trials.

    Speaking to Kenyans.co.ke, Professor Aggrey Omu Anzala, who led the first HIV vaccine trials in Kenya, confirmed that the country would be part of Covid-19 trials.

    Survivors of Covid-19 pandemic Brenda (left) and Brian who got cured of the disease speak to President Uhuru Kenyatta at Afya House on Wednesday, April 1, 2020.
    Survivors of Covid-19 pandemic Brenda (left) and Brian who got cured of the disease speak to President Uhuru Kenyatta at Afya House on Wednesday, April 1, 2020.
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    "We have applied. It is just pending approval," stated Anzala.

    The professor provided that Kenya was already at an advanced stage of the application process but he could not as yet reveal a date when the trials would begin.

    "Kenya is going to get involved and we are at a very advanced stage. Several hospitals have accepted and we've agreed with the WHO so, it's going to be done," stated Anzala.

    The Solidarity International Trials will compare the effectiveness of the four aforementioned drugs in treating Covid-19.

    One of the drugs chloroquine was already used in the country on one patient according to Patrick Amoth, the Acting Director General at the Ministry of Health.

    Anzala, however, clarified that such use was common across the world but could not be used to test the effectiveness of the drug hence the need for the clinical trials.

    "All over the world chloroquine has been used but that is why we are doing a clinical trial to know if it is really effective or whether it is not," stated Anzala.

    "If you treat one person and they survive, another and they don't, then you don't have real empirical evidence that the drug works," he added.

    The four drugs used in the trials have previously been used in the treatment of other diseases.

    Remdesivir has previously been used to treat Ebola and has generated positive results in animal studies against Middle East Respiratory Syndrome (MERS-CoV) and severe acute respiratory syndrome (SARS) which are caused by a strain of coronavirus.

    Lopinavir/ritonavir has been used and licensed as a treatment for HIV while Interferon Beta-1a is used as a treatment for multiple sclerosis.

    WHO has encouraged countries to participate in the trials providing that this would generate faster results. 

    Anzala provided that with the Solidarity clinical trials there should be enough data to determine the effectiveness of the drugs. 

    "In the next three or four months we should know whether these drugs are effective," stated Anzala.

    Solidarity will be run through randomised clinical trials on eligible patients who will be required to give consent to be part of the trials.

    Information on the effectiveness of the drugs will be collected once the patient is discharged or after they pass away.

    Anzala clarified that only a small subset of patients would be placed under the four drugs while other Covid-19 patients would still be eligible for other treatment options.

    KEMRI Deputy Director Matilu Mwau speaking to Kenyans.co.ke stated that the trails were necessary despite resistance to testing of Covid-19 treatments in Africa.

    "If a drug is intended to benefit us, people, then we must test it here. If it works in Europe, it does not mean it will work here as well. That's is why we must test it here," asserted Mwau

    The sentiments come in the wake of public fury following the sentiments of two French doctors proposing testing of Covid-19 options in Africa.

    Mwau however stated that there were controls in place to guard Kenyans and Africans in general from being exploited in such experimental trails.

    "When such products come to Kenya, the proposals are taken through ethical review boards which look at whether the qualifications are satisfactory before they go through," he stated.

    The director was however adamant that effective treatment could not be found unless testing was done on the population that would use the drug

    "If things are intended to benefit Africans then they must be tested here because testing them in Asia or Europe is not sufficient. There are some small differences in the way we respond to vaccines and drugs that can be found out during trials that can help us make the right kind of products," concluded Mwau.

    Kenya Red Cross paramedics and volunteers at the Nakuru County Level 5 Hospital during a training exercise on the proper use of Personal Protective Equipment (PPEs) in light of the Covid-19 pandemic on Sunday, March 15, 2020.
    Kenya Red Cross paramedics and volunteers at the Nakuru County Level 5 Hospital during a training exercise on the proper use of Personal Protective Equipment (PPEs) in light of the Covid-19 pandemic on Sunday, March 15, 2020.
    File

    Other countries have already begun clinical trials outside of the WHO Solidarity Project.

    the United State began treating 500 Covid-19 patients with hydroxychloroquine on Thursday, April 9. 

    India and France on their part already approved emergency use of Chloroquine or Hydroxychloroquine for the treatment of Covid-19 cases.

    The effectiveness of these measures, however, remains unclear pending conclusive results from larger test samples. 

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