As a response to the deadliest threat that humans have ever witnessed, the world's top biomedical establishment is working hard to find an effective cure to suppress the viral outbreak of the virus. The response and attention given to the COVID-19 are both unmatchable and unprecedented by increasing the available resources to target the effective treatment for the virus. But the lack of careful attention to details might harm this crisis.
The FDA approved the use of hydroxychloroquine for COVID-19 patients on March 28, which is a chemical usually used to treat malaria. However, the organization told health providers that the right duration and does of the treatment were still not known. Additionally, the approval also didn't point out any associated study on which the approval was based. While the hydroxychloroquine might affect the replication and turn out to be a great cure, its effect on the coronavirus patients and their health outcomes is still unclear.
On account of this disappointing action, the race of finding the ultimate cure for the coronavirus is breathtaking. A recent listing pointed out about 70 candidate molecules, 15 of them being antivirals, potent suppressants of the human immune system, and some of the other extremely dangerous oncology treatments being approved for different purposes by the FDA.
According to a listing published by the National Institute of Health's Clinical Trials, 100 clinical investigations prioritized cases of COVID-19, having sponsors including pharmaceutical companies, medical centers, and research institutions. With due course of time, we will be able to witness the development of direct-acting antivirals specifically focused on the most susceptible targets of the SARS-CoV-2 virus.
Unfortunately, these incredible responses are lacking the coordination from countries around the world, which cause unproductive and wasteful competition among places with biotechnology industries. Unfortunately, the coronavirus does not recognize national boundaries, and neither can these emerging antivirals that have been already tested in 15 countries. To start off, the biomedical industry must focus on the reliable and steady use of central registries of clinical studies and especially on the fast delivery of precise information regarding both successful and failed studies. Additionally, such industries should also tend to share the material evidence regarding such studies with the world on a priority basis.
Unfortunately, the above action is being suppressed by the growing industry, which is driven by fear and panic. The deadly history of medical science teaches us that people would take anything when they get sick or are afraid. For hundreds of years, baseless studies and ineffective treatments have been prescribed and promoted by everyone, including leading clinicians and doctors.
In times of need like the current pandemic situation, the industry might focus on reinventing the already available products for COVID-19, which makes a lot of sense. But at the same time, we also need to let the doctors and researchers do their job. We have seen cases in the past that were based on the narrow laboratory treatments and researches drugs that have been widely used and were subsequently being tested. And these independently showed that the drug did more harm than good or was not able to target the right patient demographic. To put this into perspective, a group of anti-arrhythmic drugs that were commonly used for curing the asymptomatic irregular heartbeats was later found to be the cause of cardiac arrests in most of the patients.
The authorities associated with biomedicine must speak clearly about the dire need for sufficient and adequate research of the newly invented treatments for COVID-19 before actually endorsing them.
Another significant hurdle in objectively testing a cure against a particular virus is the individuals who are too ready to embrace a new treatment. This may be an excellent practical representation of the placebo effect. The persons being used as controls are not aware of the fact that they are being given an inactive dose of the drug being tested, and this can show significant results, sometimes surpassing our expectations.
We all are aware of the marvelous story of the recovered patient treated by a physician, who was experimenting on an entirely new approach to treatment. Subsequently, an independent examination of the case revealed that the results indeed were quite real. But it could also be termed as an example of a placebo effect that could not be replicated to other patients.
The upcoming wave of researches on account of this pandemic situation should lead us to the two basic properties of every healing drug, i.e., benefit and harm.
A drug being known as effective against SARS-CoV-2 could prove to be extremely dangerous to be given to COVID-19 patients, who are leading to increased pneumonia. The claim regarding an effective drug that reduces the "viral load" could be accurate, but its side effects could effectively and potentially be higher than its potential to cure. A drug targeted at patients with mild to low symptoms should contain minimal toxicities because it would be the go-to treatment for the masses. Thus, it would be somewhat acceptable to give medicines with increased toxicities to critical patients to save their lives.
Another major part of all medication testing is supporting COVID-19 research. As the primary anti-infection agents for pneumonia taught us during the 1930s, a drastically successful treatment for an intense disease can be convincingly exhibited in a few patients who were observed over half a month. The odds of finding and recording such a treatment will grow if we significantly increase the number of patients enrolled in clinical investigations.
During the HIV outbreak in 1980, the patient's representative groups not only helped carve the way on how clinical trials of the virus were designed and performed but also acted as a strong force for deploying patients into trials of the drug experiment. A widened and huge network of such patients was able to increase the pace of testing of that particular drug.
For pediatric cancer, a network of professionals established not so long ago was responsible for ensuring that the patients enrolled in the laboratory trials are during the initial diagnosis. Such patients proved to be helpful in finding out the ultimate cure of the disease and future patients.
Supported by the elements discussed above, it is not shocking to witness that HIV and pediatric cancer have been the ultimate example of advanced care over the last couple of years.
It is wrong to expect that the cure for COVID-19 will be fastly produced and researched and be effective at the same time. We have both, but it needs to be supported by a precise approval of the drugs issued by the authorities against the virus. It also needs to be based on reliable studies because this will result in the inconsistent use of ineffectively approved products by people, which could turn out to be deadly for the population. Instead, we need strong coordination from countries all over the world against the virus by improving research about the treatment and crucial evaluation of the outcome. Only then can we have truly effective treatments that can cure the disease.