Swiss hospitals launch drug trial to prevent Covid-19 infection

The trial is enrolling 400 people who will be divided into three groups. Keystone / Salvatore Di Nolfi

Researchers in Geneva and Basel have launched a clinical trial to test two drugs in the prevention of infection among people who were in contact with newly confirmed Covid-19 patients.

This content was published on April 23, 2020

The trialExternal link announced on Thursday is intended to help monitor and contain any new Covid-19 outbreaks at a time when many countries, including Switzerland, are easing restrictions.

Treating these exposed people preventively is called “post-exposure ring chemoprophylaxis” and is considered a pragmatic way to slow or contain the spread of a virus at the early stages.

“Protecting contact persons from getting sick is not only desirable from an individual’s point of view but could also prove an innovative public health approach,” said Alexandra Calmy, who leads the project at the University Hospitals Geneva.

The trial, now in Phase 3, is enrolling 400 people who were in close contact with newly diagnosed COVID-19 patients. They will be randomly divided into three groups.

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One of the two drugs that will be assessed is the antimalarial drug hydroxychloroquine, which has been hotly debated by politicians and public health experts as a possible treatment to Covid-19.

Novartis’ Sandoz division is one of the largest makers of the drug and has donated doses to Swiss hospitals as part of its Covid-19 response.

Participants in the second group will receive the anti-HIV drug lopinavir/ritonavir. The third group will not receive any drugs. Three weeks after enrolment, participants will be checked to see if they develop infection.

“If one or both of the two repurposed drugs should prove efficacious, this would allow us to react rapidly when new cases emerge thereby helping us to flatten the feared second and third waves of the pandemic,” said Niklaus Labhardt, who is a Senior Physician at the University Hospital Basel.

The trial is being run by Geneva University Hospitals, Basel University Hospital and the Swiss Tropical and Public Health Institute.

There are more than 60 approved research or clinical trials on Covid-19 underway in Switzerland. This is one of five Phase 3 trialsExternal link being run at Swiss hospitals according to the Swiss Association of Research Ethics Committees.

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