Italy's ministry of health announced on 24 March that the Agenzia Italiana del Farmaco, the body the regulates the use of drugs in Italy, has agreed to start trials on the use of four drugs in the treatment of Covid-19.
The experimental Favipiravir (also known as Avigan), an anti-viral now under development in Japan, is to be tested on patients during the early stages of the illness. It has proved to effective on 340 Covid-19 patients in Wuhan and Shenzhen, although the Japanese ministry of health has warned that the drug does not appear to be effective on patients in the severe stages of the illness.
Tocilizumab, which was also developed in Japan, is usually used to treat rheumatoid arthritis, and was also used in the treatment of the coronavirus which caused SARs. The ministry of health has decided that 411 patients in 281 centres in Italy will be part of the experimental programme.
Remdesivir, which was developed by an American company, Gilead Sciences, for the treatment of Ebola patients, will also be tested by hospitals in Milan, Pavia, Parma and the Spallanzani hospital for infectious diseases in Rome, and possibly other hospitals in regions with a high number of Covid-19 cases.
The combination of Lopinavir-Ritonavir, which was also used on 199 patients in Wuhan but without positive results probably because the patients were in the advanced stages of the illness, will be tested on patients in the very early stages of Covid-19. Lopinavir-Ritonavir is used in the treatment of HIV/AIDS.
The ministry of health has also announced that is it has signed an agreement with the Lazio region, the national research council, the ministry for universities and research, and the Spallanzani hospital in Rome for research into a vaccine against Covid-19. The budget is a total of €8 million, of which €5 million will come from Lazio and €3 million from the ministry for universities and research.
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