Covid-19 Update: Scientists bat for clinical trials in poor and middle-income countries

Hindustan Times, New Delhi | ByJayashree Nandi
Apr 03, 2020 12:54 PM IST

Group of experts feel that less developed countries have been left out from coronavirus research and trials of vaccines.

A team of scientists, physicians, funders and policymakers from over 70 organisations globally have called for an acceleration of research on Covid-19 in poor and middle-income countries where the disease can wreak havoc.

A researcher at the University of Pittsburgh works on a COVID-19 vaccine candidate.(UPMC via REUTERS)
A researcher at the University of Pittsburgh works on a COVID-19 vaccine candidate.(UPMC via REUTERS)

The Covid-19 Clinical Research Coalition will work on accelerating clinical trials of vaccine and drugs in these countries among other interventions. The team which published a comment in The Lancet journal on Thursday, said the response of the research and science community to the pandemic has been vigorous but no so in poor countries.

A review of clinical trial registries as of March 24 showed 536 relevant registered clinical trials. Of the 332 Covid-19 related clinical trials, 188 are open for recruitment and 146 trials are preparing to recruit. The distribution of these clinical trials is mostly in China and South Korea, with high-income countries in Europe and North America planning most of the forthcoming trials.

The members of the coalition said research collaboration and coordination is urgently needed in African, Latin American, Eastern European, and certain Asian countries to respond to Covid-19.

They also said that open science and data sharing principles need to be applied at all stages of Covid-19 including research by the private sector.

“The FAIR guiding principles (Findability, Accessibility, Interoperability and Reusability) for data should be implemented, and mechanisms put in place to enable equitable use and reuse of data,” they have said.

The scientists have warned that certain healthcare systems could collapse due to a surge in Covid-19 cases, as there is very low availability of personal protective equipment (PPE) in these countries.

“Disruption or complete breakdown of those health-care systems would result in high direct and indirect mortality since care of all illness would be affected,” they said.

The coalition added that interventions being introduced in these countries will have to be affordable and regulatory clearance for importing products for drug and vaccine trials and ethical review needs to be expedited.

“The Indian Council of Medical Research is conducting trials on drugs that can be re-purposed. They have also published the protocol in Indian Journal of Medical Research. In WHO’s solidarity trial more than 80 countries are participating. Our public health research infrastructure and capacity need to expand. The West already has such research facilities. I think India will be ahead of many in terms of vaccine development because some organisations are already looking at vaccine strains and suitable candidates for trials,” said Dr Giridhar R Babu, professor and head, Lifecourse Epidemiology, Public Health Foundation of India.

The idea for the coalition came from Professor Nick White from Mahidol Oxford Tropical Medicine Research Unit at The University of Oxford, Professor Philippe Guerin, from Infectious Diseases Data Observatory at The University of Oxford, and Dr Nathalie Strub Wourgaft, Director of Neglected Tropical Diseases at the Drugs for Neglected Diseases initiative (DNDi) according to the coalition’s website.

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