Quantum Leap

The pitfalls of seeking a quick coronavirus cure

Scientific groups are rushing to announce results of their trials in journals, sometimes with questionable data.

 |  Quantum Leap  |  2-minute read |   21-06-2020
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The Covid-19 pandemic has led to an unprecedented response from the global scientific community. Since the virus is novel, the search for possible treatment and development of vaccines are top priorities of scientific groups and pharmaceutical companies. More than 100 groups are working on different types of vaccines and several clinical trials are underway to test new drugs to fight the disease. Many of the drugs under investigation are already known or they are old drugs. They are being repurposed to tackle the novel coronavirus.

main1_hydroxychloroq_062120114101.jpgMany of the drugs under investigation to fight the disease are already known or they are old drugs. They are being repurposed to tackle the novel coronavirus. (Photo: AP)

The list includes Hydroxychloroquine (HCQ), Remdesivir and Dexamethasone, and several antivirals. But before any of these medicines are approved for the treatment of coronavirus, there should be enough evidence about their safety and efficacy. Such evidence can be generated only through clinical trials among a large number of patients. Given the gravity of the situation and the high stakes involved, scientific groups and companies are rushing to announce the results of their trials in scientific journals, sometimes with questionable data as it happened with the HCQ studies. Top journals, which normally follow rigorous methods of approval and checking possible conflicts of interests involved, are also under pressure to publish fast. That’s why some studies had to be retracted recently. In addition to drug-related research, many groups are using mathematical modelling methods to project the progression of the disease.

Still others are publishing data about the efficacy of prevention methods. One such study, published in the highly reputed PNAS journal last week, has claimed that airborne transmission is the main route of the spread.

The policy is being drafted by The Department of Science and Technology. PNAS journal last week has claimed that airborne transmission is the main route of the spread. The claim is based on analysis of before and after data about the use of masks in America and Italy. Several scientists have demanded the study be retracted as it is faulty and also is based on wrong assumptions. While scientific research is key to address the pandemic, fast-tracking research this way is actually harmful.

(Courtesy of Mail Today)

Also read: Why there is hope in Covid-19 numbers for India

Writer

Dinesh C Sharma Dinesh C Sharma @dineshcsharma

Journalist, columnist and author based in New Delhi.

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