PHRI and the Canadian arm of Bayer have committed $0.5-million and $1.5-million respectively to initiate a major clinical research program: the Anti-Coronavirus Therapies to Prevent Progression of COVID-19 (ACT) study.
Bayer has pledged to supply study drugs, namely chloroquine, interferon-beta-1b and rivaroxaban, to support the research.
“We believe an approach of combination therapy, targeting different pathways, will likely lead to the greatest benefit,” says Dr. Salim Yusuf, Executive Director of PHRI. “Marked inflammation, a hallmark of severe COVID-19 disease, tends to destroy the lungs and damage the heart, brain and kidneys. There is also superimposed thrombosis, choking blood supply to key organs.”
“Interferon-beta has antiviral effects, and chloroquine blocks the entry of the virus into the cell. Anti-inflammatory drugs such as colchicine reduce the secondary inflammation, and antithrombotics (rivaroxaban and aspirin) prevent clotting in the blood vessels.”
Dr. Shurjeel Choudhri, Senior Vice-President and Head of Medical and Scientific Affairs, Bayer Canada, sees the inclusion of outpatients, as well as inpatients, in the ACT COVID-19 study, as important and unique.
“So far, most large studies have been done in hospitals and often on patients who were already on mechanical ventilation,” he says. “At that time, the disease is typically so severe that it can be very difficult to know whether a drug is making a difference.”
PHRI and Bayer Canada have plans for more than 100 contributing research locations and approximately 4,000 patients. They hope to find insights into who is most at risk for severe outcomes from COVID-19, including differences relating to ethnicity and underlying comorbidities.
Editor’s note: Since the writing of this news article, the ACT COVID-19 study protocol has been adjusted, and approved by Health Canada, to remove the drug, chloroquine.