LAHORE              -           The preliminary results of country’s largest drug trial on Covid-19  “Pakistan Randomized and Observational Trial to Evaluate Coronavirus Treatment (PROTECT)”, has not only established the safety of hydroxychloroquine, a drug generally used for treating malaria, in terms of mortality but has also shown significant recovery rates in Covid-19 patients when used in combination with two other drugs- azithromycin and oseltamivir.

The results were made public here at the University of Health Sciences(UHS), on Monday, in a ceremony which was presided by Punjab governor, Chaudhry Muhammad Sarwar, and attended by Provincial Minister for Higher Education Raja Yassir Humayun, vice chancellors of medical universities, researchers and faculty members.

Releasing the results of the study, UHS Vice Chancellor, Prof Javed Akram, who is also the principal investigator, clarified that it aimed at evaluating hydroxychloroquine alone and in various drug combinations as treatment of Corona.

“It is a multicentre, multiarm, adaptive, randomized control drug trial aimed at newly diagnosed patients”, he informed.

He said the study found that coronavirus patients who received the three drugs combined had a recovery rate of 86 per cent.

On this occasion, paying tribute to the frontline health workers, Punjab Governor Chaudhry Muhammad Sarwar said that the nation would always remember the valour and courage with which the health workers fought against corona. 

“A memorial wall is being erected at the Governor House in recognition of the services of health workers that would bear the names of all the frontline soldiers”, he added.   The Punjab governor called the Vice Chancellors of all the medical universities as superman.  He added that the steadfastness and resilience of this nation were unmatched in the world.  He said that while it was an encouraging sign to see coronavirus cases decreasing,  now cattle markets, Eid-ul-Azha and Muharram posed a great challenge with regards to controlling the spread of infection once again.

“If these challenges are overcome, we will overcome corona”, Punjab Governor added. Prof Javed Akram apprised the participants that the drug trial was launched on April 30, after the approval from Drug Regulatory Authority of Pakistan (DRAP) and the National Bioethics Committee (NBC).

He further said that 12 centres including 10 universities from 8 cities were included in the study.  The study enrolled corona-positive patients over the age of 18 who were divided into eight groups. The coronavirus patients included in the research were 60 per cent male and 40 per cent, female.  The three medicines were given to seven groups, each consisting of 60 to 65 patients, alone and in different combinations, while one control group was given nothing. 

He disclosed that the rate of recovery from the combination of the three drugs was the highest at 86 per cent.  The second highest recovery rate was 75 per cent from Azithromycin. The overall recovery rate of the patients who were given medicines was 73.1 per cent while the rate of recovery without medicines was 67 per cent.  About  27 per cent of patients remained corona-positive even two weeks after taking the drug.  Of the patients who were not given any medication, 33 per cent remained corona-positive even after two weeks. 

He added that the recovery rate in the first week of research was 33.5 per cent, while in the second week it increased to 72.2 per cent.  Initially, the PCR test was used as a basis for research.  He said that a total of four deaths were reported during the study.  Three deaths occurred in groups receiving single medicine, while one death occurred in the group receiving a combination of hydroxychloroquine and azithromycin. 

He clarified that the study was still in progress and it would involve around 9,500 patients when completed.  He said that Rs. 30 million had been spent on research so far which the university had collected from its own resources and through donations.   King Edward Medical University VC, Prof. Khalid Masood Gondal said that if the standard operating procedures were implemented on Eid-ul-Azha, Corona would be under control by September.  Provincial Minister for Higher Education Raja Yassir Humayun said medical institutions could play an important role in research.  Pakistani doctors were serving all over the world, he said.

He praised the role of UHS in conducting research and said that the results of the research were encouraging.  Prof Aamer Zaman Khan, Prof. Aziz-ur-Rehman, Dr Shehla Javed Akram, Prof. Maryam Nawaz Tarar, Justice (Retd.) Tassaduq Hussain Jilani, Abrar-ul-Haq, Prof. Mahmood Ayaz, Prof. Asad Aslam, Dr Somia Iqtadar, Dr Farah Khalid, Prof. Zafar Gil, Prof. Hanif Nagra, Prof. Muhammad Shehzad, Dr Allah Rakha, Waqas Latif, Faisal Amin and Dr Shah Noor were present.

Punjab Governor distributed shields among the participants.