The Government has signed an agreement to participate in the WHO Covid-19 Solidarity trial to evaluate potential treatments.
Ireland has now officially joined the World Health Organization’s (WHO) Covid-19 Solidarity Trial, which is using selected groups of the world’s population to compare four treatment options and assess their effectiveness against the disease.
These drugs include remdesivir, which was previously tested as an Ebola treatment; lopinavir and ritonavir, used for the treatment of HIV; and interferon beta-1a, used for the treatment of multiple sclerosis. Previously, hydroxychloroquine was also included in the WHO Solidarity Trial, but as of 17 June this is no longer the case.
Minister for Health Simon Harris, TD, said that €2.4m will be distributed to Irish hospitals to help them recruit patients for the trials. Globally, more than 5,000 patients in more than 400 hospitals in 35 countries have taken part.
Recruitment is set to start within a matter of days, with University College Cork’s Prof Joe Eustace being the lead investigator of the Irish trial.
The trial will run from June 2020 until March 2021, with the Health Research Board managing and overseeing the funding across 10 hospitals. Participation in the trial is limited to adults and is entirely voluntary and consent based.
“The trial may allow us to identify treatments that will reduce the severity of the infection, decrease the need for intensive treatment unit care and reduce the infection’s mortality rate,” Eustace said.
Meanwhile, Harris said he was “delighted” that Ireland can now join the trial along with international partners.
“There are still no proven treatments for Covid-19 and it is really important that any potential treatments are prescribed within the context of clinical trials where patients provide consent and everything is controlled and monitored,” he said.
“In addition, while it is impossible to predict the future shape of the pandemic, we cannot be complacent and this trial is a key element in our national preparedness for the risk of a further outbreak or a second wave.”
Updated, 6pm, 26 June 2020: The headline of this article previously stated that €2.6m was being given to Irish hospitals. This was amended to the correct figure.