The first experimental treatment of patients infected with COVID-19 has started in Norway.
Oslo University Hospital is one of 22 venues in the country carrying out the major international study by the World Health Organization.
The study will involve tests of three drug treatments, with both malaria and Ebola medicines involved.
The first drug to be tested will be Plaquenil, originally made to treat malaria, then a drug for Ebola.
“The malaria medicine reduces inflammation and works against the parasite, which may be a possible effect-mechanism,” says Director Chief executive officer of the Research Council of Norway, John-Arne Røttingen.
“But we don’t know yet if Ebola medicine, which was developed to work against that virus and several others, will work against the coronavirus.”
Several hundred patients will be included in the Norway study, according to Røttingen, and the study will continue “until there is certain knowledge that this is not effective, or that one of these medicines does have an effect.”
The Institute of Public Health believes that the research could be very important in the fight against the coronavirus.
But it will take at least three months for it to be completed. And only then can a medicine be approved.
“As soon as any of these hospitals or countries get the confirmation that one of these medications is effective, we will stop the study and offer it to everybody, says the hospitals Chief physician,” says Anne-Ma Dyrhol Riise, the chief physician at the department for infectious medicine, Oslo University Hospital.
“But it is very important to say that we have to test this in a so-called controlled study. We don’t know if it will actually work.”
In previous virus epidemics, research has not been as coordinated in such a manner. A number of countries will share the results they get when testing different medicines.
“This is a big, international study including several countries that can include patients simultaneously so the world gets quick results. We don’t know how long that will take, maybe in two-three months we can get first results from the data, but that depends on the effect,” says Røttingen.
“It is very important to say that this is not a wonder cure. This is a controlled study of something that may have an effect. The basics are still the standard treatment in hospitals.”