Malaysia enrols first patient for drug trial


KUALA LUMPUR: The Health Ministry has enrolled its first patient for the WHO-led Solidarity Trial that attempts to find the best drug to treat Covid-19, said the ministry’s Clinical Research Centre director Dr Goh Pik Pin.

Dr Goh, who is the coordinator for the trial in Malaysia, said the patient was enrolled on Tuesday.

“With this, Malaysia will contribute to the evidence the world needs in identifying efficacious treatment regimen for Covid-19 patients,” she said in a tweet on Tuesday.

The Solidarity Trial is an international effort to test several drugs on Covid-19 patients.

On Sunday, Health director-general Datuk Dr Noor Hisham Abdullah said nine government hospitals would participate in the trial using different combinations of remdesivir, lopinavir/ritonavir, interferon beta, chloroquine and hydroxychloroquine.

The use of the drugs will be evaluated by the Health Ministry’s National Pharmaceutical Regulatory Agency and the Medical Research and Ethics Committee.

He said Malaysia’s participation in the research effort was expected to help produce a safe and effective drug for Covid-19.

On the number of Malaysian Covid-19 patients needed for the trial, Dr Goh said there was no limit as long as they were adults, met the requirements, and that the hospitals could cope with the numbers.

The nine hospitals involved are Hospital Tuanku Fauziah (Kangar), Hospital Sultanah Bahiyah (Alor Setar), Hospital Pulau Pinang, Hospital Sungai Buloh, Hospital Kuala Lumpur, Hospital Melaka, Hospital Tengku Ampuan Afzan (Kuantan), Sarawak General Hospital and Kota Kinabalu’s Queen Elizabeth Hospital.

The research is headed by Hospital Pulau Pinang’s infectious disease consultant, Dr Chow Ting Soo, with a team comprising 16 infectious disease physicians and pharmacists as co-investigators at the respective hospitals.

Meanwhile, the South-East Asia regional office for the Drugs for Neglected Diseases Initiative said in a statement earlier this month that scientists, physicians, funders and policymakers from over 70 institutions in over 30 countries had launched a coalition to respond to Covid-19 in poorer countries.

Called the Covid-19 Clinical Research Coalition, the group aims to accelerate research in areas with poor healthcare systems, where the pandemic could bring a lot of damage to the already vulnerable systems.

In a comment in the medical journal The Lancet on April 3, the coalition argued that broad international collaboration and coordination were urgently needed to support African, Latin American, Eastern European, and certain Asian countries to respond effectively to the pandemic and hasten research adapted to resource-limited settings.

While acknowledging the WHO-led Solidarity trial, the authors said very few of the nearly 600 registered Covid-19 clinical trials were planned for resource-poor settings.

To address this imbalance, the coalition has pledged broad sharing of its technical expertise and clinical trial capabilities to accelerate research in the more disadvantaged settings.

It said data from all regions could be collected in similar fashion, pooled and shared in real time with the hope of helping the authorities make rapid evidence-based decisions on policies and practice.

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