The World Health Organization (WHO) has decided to restart the clinical trials of the drug hydroxychloroquine (HCQ) in its search for possible Covid-19 treatments.
If HCQ becomes the best choice for treatment, nothing like it because the whole world wants a cheap oral medicine with a good safety record, both for prevention and care, says Dr Sheela Godbole, national coordinator for India on the WHO solidarity trial, in an exclusive conversation with CNN-News18.
What do you have to say about the WHO calling for the resumption of trials on HCQ as part of the global solidarity trial?
The solidarity trial was never stopped. The trials include remdesivir, a combination of lopinavir and ritonavir. Essentially we were testing four drugs of which only hydroxychloroquine was temporarily paused so that we could see the safety data, especially the mortality data.
And India stood its ground. Even during this period the ICMR's paper on the same as well...CSIR also said it is the best option for India.
India has its own policies. One the one hand we have the policy. On the other hand the suspension was only for the clinical trial. India has its own policies for both treatment and prophylaxis using hydroxychloroquine which are periodically reviewed. India had to do nothing to its policy while the DSMC result was awaited. The pause was for the trial and India did not get carried away by this temporary pause, and there is no requirement to make changes until we hear back.
Why Is HCQ so important for India? Is it because now access to drugs becomes so important? It is made in India, it is also cheap.
Any drug that is going to be useful is the best option for any country across the world. All countries are looking for options for prevention and treatment. You have seen recent data from India that adds to the data that has made us make a policy for using this drug as prevention. If HCQ becomes the best choice for treatment, nothing like it because the whole world wants a cheap oral medicine with a good safety record, both for prevention and treatment. Lopinavir is the other drug which is widely available and we have experience with it because it is used for HIV, but we need more randomised controlled trials before we can tell you about which drug proves to be useful. The last arm is lopinavir along with interferon beta 1a (used to treat multiple sclerosis).
The other medicine that the solidarity trial is looking at is remdesivir. What is your position and what are the findings of the solidarity trial?
It is too early to talk about findings of the trial. Nor does the researcher take any position. This is a study to see what drug works best and that is what we are doing. Remdesivir was approved in India for emergency use authorisation, but in this trial we are looking at mortality as an end point which was not something we were looking at in the other trial.