96% of the patients who participated in the clinical trial were cured by the anti-flu drug, according to medical professionals involved with the trial
A limited-scale clinical trial has found Favipira, an antiviral drug to treat influenza, to be effective in treating patients with mild to moderate Covid-19 symptoms.
Around 96% patients who participated in the trial, conducted in Dhaka by Bangladesh Society of Medicine (BSM), were relieved of Covid-19 symptoms with the use of this drug, with fewer days’ stay in hospital than others, BSM representatives revealed during a press conference in Dhaka on Wednesday.
The outcome of the trial also showed significantly improved lung condition of the patients who were treated with the symptomatic medicine, produced by Beacon Pharmaceuticals Ltd in Bangladesh.
Beacon Pharma and the Institute for Developing Science and Health Initiatives (ideSHi) were scientific partners of BSM in the clinical trial. Their representatives were present at Wednesday’s press conference as well.
Termed “Dhaka Trial,” the experiment was conducted between April 23 and June 23 on 50 participants – 25 in one group who were treated with Favipira, and 25 in another group who were not.
The trial did not interfere with the overall treatment of the participating patients, said Dr Syed Ghulam Mogni Mowla, associate professor at the department of medicine in Dhaka Medical College, who attended the press conference on behalf of Dr Ahmedul Kabir, chief investigator of the clinical trial.
Some health experts have said that this result is not conclusive, and a trial on a larger scale is needed to accurately determine the medicine’s effectiveness in treating mild to moderate Covid-19 patients.
Favipira is the preparation of favipiravir, a generic antiviral drug developed in Japan to treat influenza.
The symptomatic anti-flu medicine is one of the drugs considered for Covid-19 treatment in 30 countries, among which three have already authorized it in their national treatment guidelines – China, Russia, and India.
The results from Dhaka Trial is in line with the results China and Russia have gotten from treating Covid-19 patients with favipiravir, Dr Mowla said.
Speaking of the trial, Dr Mowla said conducted the trial to understand if the medicine is usable in Covid-19 treatment.
“There is no medicine in the country for Covid-19 patients in mild to moderate stages of the disease,” he told the press conference. “We conducted this trial to see scientifically if this drug can be used for now.”
The participants were randomly selected from Dhaka Medical College Hospital, Mahanagar General Hospital, Kurmitola General Hospital, and Kuwait Bangladesh Friendship Government Hospital in Dhaka – under a set of criteria.
Dr Mowla said they had picked Dhaka for the trial as the city has the laboratory facilities where they could conduct tests to determine the possible side-effects for Favipira.
“To evaluate the usefulness and safety of favipiravir in treating Covid-19 patients, we conducted a double-blind placebo controlled clinical trial,” he added.
In a double-blind placebo trial, neither the participants nor the medical professionals involved know which group of patients are getting the experimental drug. It is the first of its kind in Bangladesh, he said.
Dr Mowla said by Day 4 of the trial, 48% of the patients who were given Favipira – 12 out of 25 – were cured of the symptoms. The rate climbed to 76% on Day 7.
By Day 10, 24 out of 25 patients who were given the drug made recovery, he added.
In the other group, which was not treated with Favipira, the rate of recovery was 52%, he said.
The X-ray reports of the patients who were treated with the drug also showed significant improvement during the trial period, and no side-effects were detected, he added.
Dr Mowla warned that Favipira should be administered to a patient who has tested positive through the rt-PCR testing. The medicine can be used to treat asymptomatic patients too, but only if suggested by physicians.
‘Result not conclusive, larger trial needed’
Dr ABM Abdullah, dean at the faculty of medicine of Bangabandhu Sheikh Mujib Medical University (BSMMU), said the outcome of Dhaka Trial cannot be taken as conclusive as the sample size was very small.
But since the outcome of this trial is positive, and the trial itself has followed proper protocol, a large-scale trial should be conducted to further investigate the effectiveness of favipiravir in treating Covid-19, he added.
“We need to remember that there is no specific medicine invented or formulated for Covid-19 treatment as yet,” Prof Abdullah said. “This medicine may speed up the recovery process fast, and even lessen the viral infection before it reaches the severe stage.
“If you are using symptomatic medicine that could be useful, it would be better to it would be better to suggest it in the early stage of diagnosis,” he added.
Dr SM Abdur Rahman, dean at the faculty of pharmacy in Dhaka University, said as the trial was conducted by strictly maintaining the necessary procedure, the medicine could be used for Covid-19 treatment.
Dr Syed Modasser Ali, chairman of Bangladesh Medical Research Council (BMRC) and former health adviser to Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina, said the highly infectious disease had become a “lifestyle disease” – a disease that requires a change in human lifestyle in order to contain or prevent its spread.
“So, we all must continue strictly following the health guidelines for Covid-19,” he added.
He cautioned that not everyone should take favipiravir, as it is not a preventive drug.
Dr Ali and Dr Rahman both urged the team of scientists behind Dhaka Trial to conduct another trial with a larger sample size, selected from around Bangladesh.
Who must not take favipiravir?