Siriraj nod for trials of virus drug

Siriraj nod for trials of virus drug

Siriraj Hospital is gearing up to hold clinical trials of chloroquine, a medicine used to combat malaria for seven decades, after saying it shows promise in treating patients with Covid-19.

Since mid-March, US President Donald Trump has also talked up the drug's abilities to combat the novel coronavirus, stirring up much controversy and sometimes outright ridicule in the Western mainstream media.

Nevertheless, Prof Dr Kulkanya Chokephaibulkit, director of Siriraj Institute of Clinical Research (Sicres), said the centre plans to recruit 400 volunteers for the trial which is expected to last a month.

She said the volunteers will be recruited from the family members of people who were previously infected with the coronavirus, adding that this is because 70%-80% of infections are spread among family members with many being asymptomatic.

She said chloroquine is very safe and inexpensive and it has shown promise in combatting the virus in laboratory settings, though its effectiveness in humans needs to be validated.

"As soon as we know there is a new infection, we'll invite a family member to join the clinical trial. The volunteer will take two doses of medicine [1,000mg/dose] -- the first as soon as the infection is reported and the second a week later," she said.

She said if the clinical trial yields positive results as expected, chloroquine could become an effective tool to help the country cope better with Covid-19.

"If the clinical trials give good results, the country will see reduced transmission and infections. People will become less worried because they know that they will have a medicine to treat Covid-19," she said.

However, as the rate of Covid-19 infections in Thailand continues to fall, the clinical trials may take longer than expected, she added.

Thanarak Plipat, deputy chief of the Department of Disease Control, said in Thailand chloroquine is used along with other medicines to treat Covid-19 patients.

He said that taking the drug by itself is unlikely to be an effective Covid-19 treatment.

Meanwhile, Dr Anupong Sujariyakul, a specialist at the Pubic Health Ministry's Department of Communicable Disease Control, warned that Thailand will likely take up to 36 months to come up with its own vaccine against Covid-19.

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