Low doses of the steroid dexamethasone can reduce deaths by one-third in COVID patients — according to researchers who studied the performance of the affordable drug in more than 2,100 patients.
Meanwhile, major pharmaceutical companies such as Gilead Sciences, AstraZeneca, Pfizer and Moderna are rushing to find a successful vaccine. Some of them are at different stages of success.
The total number of coronavirus cases across the world is now more than 8 million.
Dexamethasone lowers death rate by one-third
The efficacy of the drug was known from the Randomised Evaluation of COVID-19 Therapy (RECOVERY) trial. The British government allowed the trial to test a range of potential therapies for COVID, including low-dose dexamethasone, a steroid treatment.
The RECOVERY trial included over 11,500 patients from more than 175 hospitals in the UK, said the University of Oxford.
Scientists at Imperial College London will start immunising British citizen this week with their experimental coronavirus shot. Dexamethasone will be the latest entry into the race to find an effective vaccine to stop the pandemic.
The UK government said 300 healthy people would be immunised with two doses of Imperial-developed dexamethasone. The project cost the UK £ 41 million pounds ($ 51 million) in government funding.
Patanjali’s Ayurveda ahead of dexamethasone?
Before the announcement about dexamethasone on 16 June, Acharya Balkrishna, CEO of Patanjali, had claimed before this that an Ayurvedic preparation his company had developed would cure patients suffering from COVID in 5-14 days. “We are not talking about an immunity booster. We are talking about a cure,” said Acharya Balkrishna.
According to Patanjali, an Ayurvedic medicine developed by the company has been able to cure COVID patients within 5-14 days. Patanjali conducted the clinical trials in Indore and in Jaipur after securing permission for the same last week.
Oxford University-AstraZeneca COVID vaccine
AstraZeneca Plc has signed a contract with France, Germany, Italy and the Netherlands to supply the European Union with up to 400 million doses of the potential vaccine. The contract is for up to 400 million doses of the vaccine.
Developed by the University of Oxford, the vaccine will be manufactured and supplied without profit to the developer during the pandemic.
The vaccine is still in clinical trials. If the trial results convince regulators the vaccine is safe and effective, the authorised company will begin deliveries by the end of 2020.
Johnson and Johnson vaccine
Johnson and Johnson (J&J) will begin human trials for its experimental COVID vaccine in July. It might receive emergency approval by early 2021. J&J’s Chief Scientific Officer Paul Stoffels said the company was looking to scale its manufacturing capacity in many countries, including India.
The US government’s Biomedical Advanced Research and Development (BARDA) funded the company to accelerate the development of the vaccine.
Moderna’s mRNA vaccine update
Studies in mice of Moderna Inc’s COVID facility has assured scientists it may not increase the risk of severer disease. One dose, preliminary data released on Friday suggest, will provide protection against the novel coronavirus.
Older studies on a vaccine for SARS — the earlier form of coronavirus known to man — suggested that vaccines against this type of virus might have the side effect of aggravating the disease if the inoculated person is exposed to the pathogen in persons who do not produce an adequately strong immune response.
Moderna has finalised the protocol for the Phase III clinical trial of its vaccine, based on feedback from the US Food and Drug Administration (FDA).
The trial is set to be performed in partnership with the US National Institutes of Health (NIH)’s National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases (NIAID). It will enrol about 30,000 participants in the US.
Chinese vaccine-maker Sinovac Biotech has announced “positive preliminary” results of phase I and II clinical trials for its Covid-19 vaccine candidate, CoronaVac, saying it can induce a positive immune response.
The facility in Wuhan — where the COVID-19 outbreak was first observed — designed their first and second phases of clinical trials as randomised, double-blind and placebo-controlled studies.
In total, 743 healthy volunteers, aged from 18 to 59 years old, enrolled in the trials. Of those, 143 volunteers are in Phase I and 600 volunteers are in Phase II.
Pfizer-BNTECH vaccine update
Co-producing the vaccine with the help of German company BNTECH, pharmaceutical giant Pfizer has started the process of dosing patients. They are testing four vaccine candidates devised out of messenger RNA (mRNA) format on volunteers to identify the most viable and suited vaccine of the four.
The collaboration is sharing data with scientists in real-time. The tests are currently going on in Germany and parts of the US.
Pfizer believes that a COVID vaccine could be ready by the end of October 2020, according to The Times of Israel, which has cited Albert Bourla, the CEO of the firm.
Serum Institute of India (SII) vaccine update
Pune-based Serum Institute of India (SII) is a leading contender for vaccine development. The company, which has produced over 10 million doses of vaccines in a year for treating other diseases, has partnered with the University of Oxford to speed up the development of a safe and affordable vaccine against COVID.
While the Oxford University vaccine shows good success rates (and has reached the human clinical trial stage), SII is speeding up efforts to produce the vaccine and making sure that vaccine doses are available as early as October 2020.
No more emergency use of HCQ in US
The US Food and Drug Administration (FDA) on 15 June withdrew the emergency use authorisation of anti-malarial drug hydroxychloroquine in the treatment of COVID patients. The FDA said that the drug, once called a ‘game-changer’ in the treatment, may not be effective to cure the deadly virus infection.
BioNTech, Novavax, Sinovac, CanSino Biologics and Inovio Pharmaceuticals are among those leading the fight against coornavirus.
Coronavirus vaccine how soon?
While a vaccine normally takes years, if not decades, to develop and then spend at least 18 months in various phases of trials, scientists hope they will have accomplished the same volume of work in just a few months. Most experts think a vaccine is likely to be available by mid-2021.