A Covid-19 patient undergoing treatment at Sungai Buloh Hospital will be the first in Southeast Asia to be administered the antiviral drug Remdesivir to gauge its efficacy in battling the new coronavirus.
Health director-general Datuk Dr Noor Hisham Abdullah said the Health Ministry has already begun recruiting those infected with the disease for clinical trials from hospitals nationwide.
He said that the trials, under the World Health Organisation (WHO), will involve 100 patients.
“We have received the drug and distributed it to nine hospitals. We have also recruited one case for the clinical trial, and we aim at getting 100 patients,” he said during the ministry’s daily update on Covid-19 today.
The drug is developed by American biotechnology company Gilead Sciences Inc. According to the company, Remdesivir has been tested on animals against viral pathogens that are structurally similar to Covid-19, like MERS (Middle East Respiratory Syndrome) and severe acute respiratory syndrome (SARS), which are also triggered by coronaviruses.
In a recent report, Gilead also said the experimental drug has improved Covid-19 patients’ outcomes.
It also provided data suggesting that Remdesivir works better when given earlier in the course of infection.
Dr Noor Hisham said it will probably take six months before reports on the trial could be completed and submitted to the WHO.
“WHO will then look into all the reports from (clinical trials done) around the world, including Malaysia, and study them according to their protocols.”
Meanwhile, he also dismissed claims of the ministry’s involvement in awarding contracts to procure equipment for Covid-19 operations through direct negotiations.
However, he said that the ministry is ready to cooperate with the Malaysian Anti-Corruption Commission (MACC).
“The matter should be referred to the MACC and the ministry will always cooperate (with them) if needed,” he said.
It was reported that several companies have been called up by the MACC to facilitate investigations into allegations related to the awarding of contracts to supply laboratory equipment worth RM30 million. – NST