Latest results from a UN-coordinated international trial on four COVID-19 therapeutic drugs, indicate that they have “little or no” positive impact on preventing deaths in patients infected with the new coronavirus.
The Solidarity Therapeutics Trial, overseen by the World Health Organization (WHO), shows that medications Remdesivir, hydroxychloroquine, lopinavir/ritonavir and interferon, repurposed to treat new coronavirus infections, “appeared to have little or no effect on 28-day mortality or the in-hospital course of COVID-19 among hospitalized patients”, WHO said in a statement on Friday.
The study, which began in March and spans more than 30 countries, looked at the effects of these treatments on overall mortality, initiation of ventilation, and duration of hospital stay in hospitalized individuals.
Other uses of the drugs, for example in treatment of patients in the community or for prevention, would have to be examined using different trials, the WHO explained.
Associated blood pressure risks
In a related announcement, the UN health agency said that COVID-19 had also highlighted the increased vulnerability of people with high blood pressure to the coronavirus.
The warning is based on data from more than 120 countries showing significant COVID-related disruption to treatment for people suffering from chronic health conditions, with findings showing these patients make up 50 to 60 per cent of all deaths from COVID.
Dr. Bente Mikkelsen, Director of WHO’s Department of Noncommunicable Diseases, said that more than 1.13 billion people around the world suffer from hypertension.
Of this number, 745,800,000 live in low and middle-income countries and 80 per cent of these nations have fewer than 50 per cent of people on treatment.
Many unaware they are sick
On average, one in four men suffer from the condition, compared with one in five women, according to WHO data. In addition, two in five people are not aware that they even have hypertension.
“When it comes to COVID-19 and hypertension, the 122 countries that have reported tells us that in over 50 per cent of the countries their health care services is disrupted fully or partially…In addition, we see a high number of fatalities”, Dr. Mikkelsen told journalists in Geneva.
Noting that global figures have yet to be calculated, she added that for those countries where data was available, “we see in the range of 50, 60 per cent of the people that are severely ill and die in hospitals from COVID have hypertension, diabetes”, and other non-communicable diseases.
Highlighting how the pandemic has made a resurgence in many countries across all continents after the easing of restrictions, and the additional health threat posed by the impending influenza season in the global north, the WHO official appealed to governments everywhere to address hypertension urgently.
She also cited growing evidence that poor and salty diets along with rising inactivity, have contributed to worsening hypertension rates globally.
To coincide with World Hypertension Day on 16 October, Dr Mikkelsen unveiled a series of recommendations and products developed by the WHO to promote action on hypertension “during and beyond the pandemic”.
By doing so, health authorities can help people to keep their blood pressure under control and prevent stroke, heart attack, and kidney damage, the WHO believes.
The new protocols are based on successful patient blood pressure management in 18 countries involving more three million people.
Today, only 20 per cent of the world’s nations are on track to reduce hypertension by 25 per cent by 2025, a global target set by the World Health Assembly in 2013, according to the UN health agency.