New COVID-19 drug trial could help speed up recovery

Infectious diseases physician Dr James McMahon is leading a study to find out whether an antiviral called favipiravir will help people with COVID-19 clear the virus from their systems faster.

Researchers from The Alfred and Monash University have set out to determine whether an antiviral medication that has activity against COVID-19 could help clear the virus more quickly and also help people recover from the illness.

Led by researcher and Infectious Diseases specialist Dr James McMahon, the VIRCO trial is currently enrolling symptomatic people with COVID-19 in the first five days of diagnosis to trial an antiviral drug called Favipiravir, which was originally developed to treat people with influenza.

Favipiravir is currently being studied in multiple countries for COVID-19 including the United States and Japan, and with this trial is now being studied in Australia.

"We think this could work for COVID-19,"  Dr McMahon said.

“There were two smaller trials in China which showed that Favipiravir cleared the virus more quickly and people with less severe infection recovered more quickly.

“These studies were in a small number of people, so it needs to be studied further in a placebo controlled study. This means half the people get the drug and half get a sugar pill or placebo so it is a rigorous way of working out whether this drug helps people clear the virus and recover more quickly."

“Importantly, Favipiravir has been given to thousands of people safely in trials studying other viral infections before COVID-19,” Dr McMahon said.

"This is why we think it is an excellent candidate to study not only for people in hospitals but also people in their homes with COVID-19. The study staff will closely monitor people while they are on the trial.”

Eligible people with COVID -19 can participate in the randomised placebo controlled trial in hospital or at home. They will be required to take an oral medication twice a day for 14 days and do a swab of the back of their throat every two days.

Individuals will be randomised to the candidate antiviral, Favipiravir or matched placebo and this study drug will be given in addition to the usual standard of care the participant may require for the treatment of COVID-19.

To take part in the trial or find out more:

The VIRCO trial has been made possible due to a generous philanthropic grant from the Commonwealth Bank of Australia.

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