Fancy a Game of Ping-Pong?
When following COVID-19 research, it’s hard to keep your eye on the ball...
Stephanie Sutton | | Opinion
This article was published in our sister publication, The Small Molecule Manufacturer, which celebrates the field of small molecule drug development and manufacturing with interviews and articles focusing on success stories, equipment, and new processing techniques. Read more about The Small Molecule Manufacturer here.
Katrina A. Bramstedt recently wrote a provocative article about research during the pandemic (1). “No research team is exempt from the pressures and speed at which COVID-19 research is occurring. And this can increase the risk of honest error as well as misconduct. To date, 33 papers have been identified as unsuitable for public use and either retracted, withdrawn, or noted with concern.”
Before we digest those comments, let’s not forget to applaud the verve with which the research community and pharma industry have been digging into COVID-19 and its treatment. Never before have we seen so much collaboration or so many new vaccines and treatments advancing through clinical development in such a short time.
At the same time, scientific ping-pong has been a key theme throughout the pandemic (and indeed throughout history, albeit at a more leisurely pace), which has ultimately led to confusion. When governments or key political figures cherry pick the science and findings to drive (or suit) their healthcare policies and decisions, the waters become murkier still. Ultimately, public trust in health leaders is being eroded – and that could fuel vaccine hesitancy when we finally get an approval.
At Texere Publishing, we publish a weekly newsletter – the COVID-19 Curator – which pulls the most important science stories together into three categories: understanding, testing, and fighting; sign up (free): https://www.texerenewsletters.com/covid19newsletter. As part of the curation team, I’ve watched some epic games of table tennis. Hydroxychloroquine is a wonder drug. It doesn’t work. It might work. It doesn’t work. COVID-19 produces long-lasting antibodies. It doesn’t produce long-lasting antibodies...
And now it seems a new small molecule contender is entering the game. When remdesivir received conditional marketing approval in some regions, it received a great deal of global attention. However, the WHO’s Solidarity trial, which studied remdesivir and three other drug regimens in over 11,000 hospitalized patients, concluded that none of the treatments substantially affected mortality or reduced the need for ventilation (2). Back in June (which really isn’t as long ago as it seems), Gilead touted its phase III trials of remdesivir as a success (3).
Is remdesivir a dead end – it depends which scientist you ask. The NIH recently began a trial testing hyperimmune intravenous immunoglobulin plus remdesivir (4). One thing’s for sure, fans of ping pong will not be disappointed as COVID-19 science moves forward (and then back again).
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- K Bramstedt, “The carnage of substandard research during the COVID-19 pandemic: a call for quality,” Journal of Medical Ethics (2020).
- WHO, “Solidarity Therapeutics Trial produces conclusive evidence on the effectiveness of repurposed drugs for COVID-19 in record time,” (2020). Available at bit.ly/349d1zw.
- Gilead, “Gilead Announces Results From Phase 3 Trial of Remdesivir in Patients With Moderate COVID-19,” (2020). Available at https://bit.ly/2TafmnH.
- NIH, “NIH clinical trial testing hyperimmune intravenous immunoglobulin plus remdesivir to treat COVID-19 Begins,” (2020). Available at bit.ly/2Tdqtw7.