LAHORE: The preliminary results of the country’s largest drug trial on the coronavirus — Pakistan Randomized and Observational Trial to Evaluate Coronavirus Treatment (PROTECT) — has not only established the safety of hydroxychloroquine, a drug generally used for malaria, in terms of mortality but has also shown significant recovery rates in Covid-19 patients when used in combination with two other drugs- azithromycin and oseltamivir.
The claims, as well as the results, were made public here at the University of Health Sciences (UHS), on Monday, in a ceremony, which was presided by Governor Chaudhry Muhammad Sarwar and attended by Punjab Minister for Higher Education Raja Yassir Humayun Sarfraz, vice chancellors of the medical universities, researchers and faculty members.
Releasing the results of the study, UHS Vice Chancellor Prof Javed Akram, who is also its principal investigator, clarified that it aimed at evaluating hydroxychloroquine alone and in various drug combinations as treatment of the coronavirus.
“It is a multicentre, multiarm, adaptive, randomized control drug trial aimed at newly diagnosed patients,” he informed the participants in the ceremony.
He said the study found that the coronavirus patients, who received the three drugs combined, had a recovery rate of 86pc.
UHS VC Prof Javed Akram told the participants that the drug trial was launched on April 30, after the approval from the Drug Regulatory Authority of Pakistan (DRAP) and the National Bioethics Committee (NBC).
He added that 12 centres, including 10 universities from eight cities, were included in the study. The study enrolled Covid patients over the age of 18 who were divided into eight groups. The patients included in the research were 60pc male and 40pc female. The three medicines were given to seven groups, each consisting of 60 to 65 patients, alone and in different combinations, while one control group was given nothing.
Prof Javed Akram disclosed that the rate of recovery from the combination of the three drugs was the highest at 86pc. The second highest recovery rate was 75pc from azithromycin. The overall recovery rate of the patients, who were given medicines, was 73.1pc while the rate of recovery without medicines was 67pc. The 27pc of patients remained Corona-positive even two weeks after taking the drug. Of the patients who were not given any medication, 33pc remained Corona-positive even after two weeks.
The UHS VC added that the recovery rate in the first week of research was 33.5pc while in the second week, it increased to 72.2pc.
Initially, the PCR test was used as a basis for research. He said a total of four deaths were reported during the study. Three deaths occurred in groups receiving single medicine, while one death occurred in the group receiving a combination of hydroxychloroquine and azithromycin.
Mr Akram made it clear that the study was still in progress and it would involve around 9,500 patients when completed. He added that Rs30m had been spent on research so far, which the university had collected from its own resources and through donations.
King Edward Medical University VC Prof Khalid Masood Gondal, in his address, said if the standard operating procedures (SOPs) were implemented on Eidul Azha, the coronavirus would be under control by September.
Paying a tribute to the front line health workers, Governor Chaudhry Muhammad Sarwar said the nation would always remember the valour with which the health workers fought against the virus.
“A memorial wall is being erected at the Governor House in recognition of the services of the health workers that would bear the names of all the front line soldiers,” he added.
He said while it was an encouraging sign to see coronavirus cases decreasing, the cattle markets, Eidul Azha and Muharram posed a great challenge regarding the controlling of the spread of infection, once again.
“If these challenges are overcome, we will overcome Corona,” Punjab governor asserted.
Provincial Minister for Higher Education Raja Yassir Humayun also spoke.
Prof Aamer Zaman Khan, Prof Azizur Rehman, Dr Shehla Javed Akram, Prof Maryam Nawaz Tarar, retired Justice Tassaduq Hussain Jilani, Abrarul Haq, Prof Mahmood Ayaz, Prof Asad Aslam, Dr Somia Iqtadar, Dr Farah Khalid, Prof Zafar Gil, Prof Hanif Nagra, Prof Muhammad Shehzad, Dr Allah Rakha, Waqas Latif, Faisal Amin and Dr Shah Noor were present.
At the end, they governor distributed shields among the participants.
Published in Dawn, July 21st, 2020