Wednesday, June 17th, 2020

Bangladesh doctor’s two drugs await approval for COVID-19 treatment

Published 10:57 pm | June 17, 2020

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Online Desk : Healthcare authorities have said experts concerned were asked to quicken examinations of efficacy of a two-drug combination developed recently by a team led by a senior Bangladeshi doctor, claiming it worked very well in curing COVID-19 patients at a minimal cost.

“Studies are underway in line with medical protocols and we have asked experts concerned to expedite it on an urgent basis,” Director General of Directorate General of Health Services (DGHS) Prof Abul Kalam Azad told BSS on Wednesday.

Azad said once the DGHS technical study team gave the green light about the effectiveness of the combination of Ivermectin and doxycycline, the two medicines would be prescribed for “limited-scale application” among COVID-19 patients.

He said ahead of a massive-scale application or widened use to treat COVID-19 patients, the combination would have to exhaust clinical trials by regulatory Bangladesh Medical Research Council (BMRC).

Health ministry’s additional secretary Habibur Rahman, meanwhile, said concerned officials and experts took the issue with a positive outlook and were extending all-out cooperation to the research team.

“These are low-cost drugs, Bangladesh will be proud, if the combination is proven effective against the coronavirus,” said Rahman, who also heads the health ministry’s media cell.

Head of medicine of private Bangladesh Medical College Hospital (BMCH) Professor Tarek Alam led the team in experimenting the combination which he said worked very well for mild and moderate cases of coronavirus.

He said the team now wanted to see the combination’s effectiveness on patients with severe coronavirus infections administering them with increased doses of medicines.

Alam said his team submitted a proposal incorporating treatment protocol on 60 patients to BMRC for seeking clinical trial and “hopefully will get permission very soon”.

He said according to information he received three hospitals — Bangladesh Medical College Hospital, Central Police Hospital and Uttra Adhunik Hospital — were selected for clinical trials.

“We will categorize doses of two-medicine combination as mild, moderate and severe during clinical trial,” Alam said.

The officials and doctors comments on Bangladesh’s prospective achievement came a day after British researchers said they found the first drug — Dexamethasone — proven to cut COVID-19 deaths which could be of huge benefit of poorer countries with high infection rates because of its low cost.

It appears that when the low-cost Dexamethasone, a steroid group drug, worked on critical patients on ventilation or on extra-oxygen supplies, the combination of parasite killer Ivermectin and anti-biotic doxycycline by now appeared highly effective in treating patients with less severe crronavirus infections.

“It (Dexamethasone) cut the risk of death by a third for patients on ventilators. For those on oxygen, it cut deaths by a fifth,” BBC reported concerned experts in UK while the Reuters news agency quoting England’s chief medical officer Chris called the development “the most important trial result for COVID-19 so far”.

“It will save lives around the world,” Whitty said.

Researchers familiar with the study said had the drug been used to treat patients in the UK from the start of the pandemic at least 5,000 lives could have been saved.

Alam’s team also believe a widespread use of the combination under doctors careful monitoring could largely contain death rates had it been applied from the beginning of the pandemic since their initial experiment found all the 60 patients recovered after using the two drugs within a week.

“(But) We have heard many people are taking these medicines without doctor’s prescription . . . it is a dangerous practice. I warn everyone not to take medicines without consulting doctors,” Alam said.

Dr Rubaiul Morshed, a member of Alam’s medical team said the two-drug combination was an inexpensive treatment which could be plied globally for coronavirus patients.

“We are hopeful that we will get approval of clinical trial within next one or two weeks,” Morshed added.

Doctors at different facilities said they were unofficially using the matching, observing their effectiveness.

Head of National Advisory Technical Committee on COVID-19 and president of regulatory Bangladesh Medical and Dental Council Prof Dr Mohammad Shahidullah said eventually it could appear as a major medical advancement.

“A research team got good result for treatment of coronavirus patients through their observation but a randomised control trial (RCT) needs to be conducted for assessment of the effectiveness of the combination,” Shahidulah said earlier.

But doctors at the central police hospital said their findings in experimenting Ivermectin combination with doxycycline in a regulated method replicating Tarek Alam’s formula visibly lowered the mortality rate.

“Mortality rate is less than one percent in our hospital while the national fatality rate is 1.34 percent,” Central Police Hospital chief and police’s deputy inspector general Dr Hasan Ul Haider.

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