• DNDi said repurposing existing drugs is better because these medicines will be accessible quickly as they are already manufactured at scale.
• Africa has recorded more than 117,000 deaths from Covid-19, but the toll is suspected to be higher.
Kenya has joined the largest trial in Africa to test two existing drugs for Covid-19 treatment.
The trial will test nitazoxanide – an antiparasitic drug used to stop diarrhoea – and ciclesonide, which is inhaled by asthma patients to prevent difficulties in breathing.
Researchers said laboratory tests show the two drugs have some antiviral activity against the coronavirus.
The trial is being led by the Drugs for Neglected Diseases initiative, a Geneva-based NGO with regional offices in Nairobi.
The organisation said treatments against Covid-19 would lower the growing burden of the disease in Africa.
The two drugs being tested are already registered for other diseases and are therefore known to be safe and medics are familiar with them.
“In addition to treatment options for patients with mild-to-moderate Covid-19, we also need a simple, easy-to-use, affordable, and reliable test that can be the backbone of test-and-treat programmes led by African governments,” said Dr Monique Wasunna, director of the DNDi Africa regional office.
DNDi said repurposing existing drugs is better because these medicines will be accessible quickly as they are already manufactured at scale.
“An added benefit is that many are off-patent and therefore produced by generic companies, which means they are more likely to be affordable,” DNDi said in a statement.
The current trial was initially launched last year, and tested the HIV antiretroviral combination lopinavir/ritonavir and the malaria drug hydroxychloroquine, which were all found ineffective.
In total, 13 African countries are taking part in the current phase, which will test nitazoxanide and ciclesonide on people with mild-to-moderate Covid-19.
The other countries are Burkina Faso, Cameroon, Côte d’Ivoire, the Democratic Republic of Congo, Equatorial Guinea, Ethiopia, Ghana, Guinea, Mali, Mozambique, Sudan and Uganda.
Africa has recorded more than 117,000 deaths from Covid-19, but the toll is suspected to be higher.
Africa CDC, which is supporting the trial, defended tests on treatments when vaccines are already available, saying the pace of vaccination is too slow and the earliest the goal of vaccinating 60 per cent of Africa's population can be met is end of 2022.
“In the meantime, patients will continue to be infected. The pandemic will not be under control soon,” said Dr John Nkengasong, director of the Africa Centres for Disease Control and Prevention.
He also said only a few drugs are being tested in Africa. Of the 5,368 registered clinical studies on potential drugs underway around the world as of mid-April 2021, only 77 were being conducted in Sub-Saharan Africa.
The current trial is funded by Germany, the global health agency Unitaid and the European Union. Several other trials to repurpose drugs to treat Covid-19 are ongoing in Kenya.
The Aga Khan University Hospital is involved in the Empacta study to evaluate the efficacy and safety of Roche’s medicine tocilizumab in the treatment of Covid-19.
Kenya is also part of the World Health Organization's solidarity trial that showed remdesivir, hydroxychloroquine, lopinavir/ritonavir and interferon are not useful against Covid-19.
(edited by o. owino)
Dr Borna Nyaoke-Anoke, Senior Clinical Project Manager & Medical Manager in DNDi office in Kenya, presents ANTICOV, a clinical trial in 13 African countries to find treatments for mild #COVID19 cases and prevent them from becoming severe.