The World Health Organization said Wednesday it will begin testing three drugs currently used to treat other diseases to see if they can be used as treatments for COVID-19, the illness caused by the coronavirus.
At a news briefing from the agency’s headquarters in Geneva, WHO Director General Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus said the organization, in its ongoing effort to find new treatments for COVID-19, will begin trials involving artesunate, a treatment for severe malaria; imatinib, a drug for certain cancers; and infliximab, a treatment for immune system disorders such as Crohn’s disease.
The WHO chief said the drugs were chosen by an independent panel of experts that evaluates all the available evidence on all potential therapeutics. He said the testing — known as the Solidarity PLUS trials — will involve thousands of researchers at more than 600 hospitals in 52 countries.
Tedros thanked all the participating governments, hospitals, researchers and patients, as well as the three pharmaceutical manufacturers who donated the drugs for the trial — Ipca Laboratories, Novartis and Johnson & Johnson.
Tedros said the initial trials took place last year in which four potential COVID-19 treatments were tested among 13,000 patients in 500 hospitals, in 30 countries. He said none of those treatments proved effective in the initial results, but that final results from those trials are expected next month.
The WHO chief said the search for new treatments comes as the agency last week recorded the 200 millionth case of COVID-19, just six months after the world passed 100 million reported cases.
He said at the current rate, the world could pass 300 million reported cases early next year. He added, “Whether we reach 300 million, and how fast we get there, depends on all of us.”
Some information for this report was provided by the Associated Press news agency.