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The Search for a COVID-19 Treatment: A Tyee Video

QUICK WATCH: How Canadian researchers are progressing towards clinical trials for possible medicines that increase survival.

Tyee Staff 22 Apr 2020TheTyee.ca

U.S. President Donald Trump has been touting the unproven benefits of hydroxychloroquine, a malaria drug, as a possible treatment for COVID-19.

But moving from “hey, this might work” to prescribing a drug to sick people is complicated.

This short Tyee video — barely five minutes — explains what needs to happen, how clinical trials work and how we could be doing a better job and possibly getting treatments to patients faster.

Dr. Srinivas Murthy, an associate professor in the University of British Columbia department of pediatrics and an infectious disease specialist at BC Children’s Hospital, is working on clinical trials to test the effectiveness of three existing drugs in treating COVID-19 patients.

“The whole point of clinical trials is to figure out what works for patients and what doesn’t work,” he says. “Proving what doesn’t work is almost as important as proving what does work.”

Patients are randomly selected to get one of the three drugs or be treated with current best practices.

If the drugs don’t make a difference in outcomes, they’re dropped. If they do, they can be incorporated into treatment regimens.

But don’t expect magic cures. Trials may show only a small difference in outcomes.

That still matters, Murthy says. “A two-per-cent difference scaled out across this entire outbreak could be tens of thousands of lives.”

The efforts in Canada are part of the World Health Organization’s Solidarity Trial — an effort to link the work of 90 countries to identify possible treatments.

But Murthy says Canada’s contribution is lagging. The federal government has only provided funding to allow 20 hospitals to participate in the trials; another 80 want to take part in helping find a treatment.

“Canada, compared to other countries, is well behind.”

This video is the second in a series of pandemic-related videos in partnership with Vancouver’s Avo Media team of Jesse Lupini, Koby Michaels and Lucas Kavanagh.

Stay tuned for more. And let us know what you think in the comments.

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Read more: Health, Coronavirus

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