The coronavirus sweeping across China has triggered a burst of research activity aimed at finding a salve for the infectious disease, prompting more than 120 clinical trials that have either gotten underway or are planned in coming weeks, according to new data.
As of Wednesday, 124 studies have either commenced or are expected to do so shortly, with all but three taking place in China. At the end of last week, the tally stood at 70 trials as the Chinese government and public health officials from elsewhere explored different avenues for combating the coronavirus, according to the Trial Trove database run by Informa Pharma Intelligence.
“As of this moment, you’re looking at 40,000-plus patients being targeted,” said Jake Mathon, an analyst at Informa. “It’s an amazingly fast response and the sheer number of patients involved is pretty staggering.” He noted that the number of patients involved in the trials range from as few as 10 people to as many as 20,000, with a mean of about 339 subjects.
The flurry of activity underscores the severity of the coronavirus, which causes an acute respiratory disease called Covid-19 and has so far killed more than 2,000 people around the world and infected more than 75,000 globally, according to the latest update from the World Health Organization. The majority of the deaths, however, have occurred in China’s Hubei province, where the city of Wuhan, the epicenter of the outbreak, is located.
In response, health officials are scurrying to find a useful treatment. Most of the trials in progress or slated to start in China involve academic medical centers and government agencies. The Chinese Academy of Medical Sciences, for instance, is overseeing a clinical trial of a Gilead Sciences (GILD) antiviral called remdesivir.
Nearly half of the 124 clinical trials — or 60, to be exact — will test undisclosed antiviral medications and another 47 will determine whether so-called natural products can combat the coronavirus. Mathon explained these are various Chinese remedies that are not pharmacological products. And HIV medications are the focus of more than a dozen trials.
To what extent these trials will yield answers anytime soon remains to be seen.
A trial that testing the Gilead antiviral in China is suffering from a lack of subjects. More than 700 patients were expected to be enrolled in the study, which is taking place at Jinyintan Hospital in Wuhan. But The Wall Street Journal reported earlier this week that fewer than 200 people were recruited after 10 days. Mathon said there is insufficient data to know if other trials are encountering similar problems.