Ahmedabad-based Intas Pharmaceuticals has donated two million tablets of hydroxychloroquine, an old malaria molecule, for a World Health Organisation (WHO) endorsed study to enable the largest COVID-19 trial in the world involving up to 40,000 frontline healthcare workers.
Hydroxychloroquine (HCQ), also used to treat auto immune disorders like Rheumatoid Arthritis, is found be effective in treating Covid 19 patients and many of the affected countries are currently experimenting with it.
The global study, due to start shortly, involves 40,000 frontline healthcare workers looking after COVID-19 patients.
The study will be led by scientists from the University of Oxford and is funded by the UK based Wellcome Trust. The study will also pool international experts across multiple continents.
Intas Pharmaceuticals, one among the top ten drug companies in India, is the largest supplier of generic medicines to the UK National Health Service (NHS). Intas is also giving two million tablets for placebo, a standard trial protocol.
Binish Chudgar, Vice Chairman and Managing Director, Intas Pharmaceuticals said, "I am extremely proud that Intas is leading the way and playing an important part in the current COVID-19 pandemic. In addition to providing scientific advice, our teams are working around the clock in challenging times, to manufacture the required hydroxychloroquine and matching-placebo for this vital study".
"We are in a race against time to find effective treatments and preventive measures as the COVID-19 pandemic grows. What we already know is that chloroquine has antiviral activity against SARS-CoV-2 in cell culture, as it does for the related SARS-CoV," said Dr William Schilling, co-lead investigator, Mahidol Oxford Tropical Medicine Research Unit, Thailand.
According to Professor Nicholas White, Wellcome Trust Fellow and consultant in infectious diseases at the University of Oxford, the hypothesis for this study is that chloroquine and hydroxychloroquine might both slow viral replication in exposed subjects, attenuating or preventing the infection.
"Given the extensive experience in clinical practice, established safety and tolerability profile, if it proves effective then it would be a readily deployable and affordable preventive measure for high risk individuals such as healthcare workers", he said.