A European clinical trial which will evaluate four experimental treatments for the novel coronavirus began Sunday, with at least 800 patients in France who have severe forms of the disease expected to take part.
The announcement came from the French National Institute of Health and Medical Research (Inserm), the coordinating body.
The trial, called Discovery, is being led by Florence Ader, an infectious disease specialist in the Infectious and Tropical Diseases Department of Croix-Rousse Hospital in Lyon, who said that a number of antiviral molecules are being tested: remdesivir, lopinavir and ritonavir in combination, the latter being administered with or without interferon beta and hydroxychloroquine.
The latter molecule is the centerpiece of Plaquenil, the anti-malarial drug produced by Sanofi that is currently on the market used to treat Lupus and Rheumatoid arthritis.
Dr. Didier Raoult, director of IHU Mediterranee Infection in Marseille, recently conducted a trial using Plaquenil on 24 test patients, three-quarters of whom saw a disappearance of the virus.
Ader explained that the drugs are part of a World Health Organization (WHO) list of experimental treatments and are given priority status to be examined and used in a trial. She added that the trial is forging ahead with the most current clinical data.
The hospitals taking part are located in Lille, Nantes, Strasbourg, Lyon and Paris, at the Bichat-AP-HP Hospital, and 3,200 other patients from the hardest-hit neighboring countries will take part.
A total of 16,044 cases have been reported to date in France and 674 deaths. The total number of recovered is 2,200