Some drugs are showing promise for the treatment of coronavirus (COVID-19) but more research is needed before drawing conclusions, a WHO official has said.
WHO Executive Director, health emergencies, Mike Ryan, on Monday, said that data from ongoing research on drugs for the treatment of COVID-19 has shown some promising results.
He said preliminary data from non-randomized studies has indicated that some drugs and some drug cocktails may have an impact on the virus.
Mr Ryan said the data are extremely preliminary and more research needs to be done to determine whether the treatments can reliably fight COVID-19.
COVID-19 is a new virus affecting humans as such there is limited knowledge on effective treatments.
Since the onset of the outbreak in Wuhan in December, several researchers have been experimenting on drugs with most efficacy to treat the virus.
Mr Ryan said during a press briefing on Monday that early research has shown that some drugs “have shown promise in treating other coronaviruses, including SARS and MERS, that may be helpful in fighting COVID-19.”
“Some of those drugs may impact the length of disease, some may impact the severity of disease and the dosages of those drugs when they’re given to what patient at what stage of the disease has not been standardized,” Mr Ryan said.
“We have never had a comparison group where we’ve had a randomized approach to treatment with the drug or not treatment with the drug.”
“So that we’re clear, there’s no proven effective therapeutic or drug against COVID-19,” he added.
The official had reacted to a question on the efficacy of chloroquine, which is being tested in New York State, in treating COVID-19 even though the drug has not been put through a rigorous clinical trial.
The official however did not mention the names of the drugs which are showing the prospects.
WHO, on Friday, had urged countries to stop using medicines that are not proven to be effective against COVID-19.
They did not name any particular drug, but a number of people have been experimentally using chloroquine combined with azithromycin to prevent and treat COVID-19.
Mr Ryan said “it is very important that those drugs are very, very needed for the treatment of other diseases and that we don’t see a situation where people who need those drugs for the treatment of other diseases cannot access them because people are buying them up and using them.”
CNBC reported that chloroquine gained a lot of attention after a small study of 36 COVID-19 patients published March 17 in France found that most patients taking the drug cleared the coronavirus from their system a lot faster than the control group.
Adding azithromycin, commonly known as a Z-Pak, to the mix “was significantly more efficient for virus elimination,” the researchers said.
Also, a small study in China found that combining chloroquine with azithromycin was “found to be more potent than chloroquine.”
Scientists and infectious disease experts say the study’s findings were not definitive and a large-scale trial is needed to see whether the drugs are effective.
World health officials are testing four of the most promising drugs to fight COVID-19, including chloroquine and hydroxychloroquine, which are anti-malarial drugs.
Head of WHO’s emerging diseases and zoonosis unit, Maria Van Kerkhove, said Monday that there are also a “number of ongoing trials” that look at chloroquine and other drugs, but “many of these trials are small in size, which makes it very difficult to draw any conclusions.”
“That is why it is very important that we have these larger trials … to be able to have enough cases to get an answer as to which drugs work,” she said.