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Brazil sees a COVID vaccine setback but treatment advancement Posted 06/11/2020

In Brazil’s quest to tackle the COVID-19 pandemic, there has been a volunteer death in a potential vaccine trial, but a potential treatment option has emerged. Brazil has the second number of COVID-19 deaths, with over 159,033 deaths recorded up to end of October 2020. 

On 21 October 2020, the Brazilian health authority announced that a volunteer in an AstraZeneca coronavirus vaccine study has died. Despite this, spokespeople from AstraZeneca and its co-developer, the University of Oxford, stated that there were no concerns about the safety of the trial or the continuation of the study. This news follows trial suspension in September after unexplained illness in a patient in the UK. The trial has since resumed in the UK and many other countries. However, the trial is currently on hold in the US as it is undergoing a Food and Drug Administration (FDA) review.

This comes two days after news that the antiparasitic drug nitazoxanide, which is used for treatment against rotavirus, can reduce COVID-19 viral load.

Brazil’s Minister of Science, Technology, and Innovation, Marcos Pontes, stated that initial COVID-19 related tests using nitazoxanide began in February 2020. Following simulations run on two thousand drugs, nitazoxanide and five other drug products showed capacity to inhibit the virus. When tested in vitro, on human cells, nitazoxanide showed the potential to inhibit the virus by up to 95%. The country’s National Laboratory of Biosciences has since used nitazoxanide on patients in the early stages of the disease. They carried out randomized double-blind tests on 1,500 patients in which patients were given 500 milligrams of nitazoxanide, three times a day, or a placebo for five days. Results show a reduction in viral load after treatment. As a result of this, nitazoxanide will be used to treat those in the early stages of infection.

Across the globe, other existing drugs are being investigated as potential COVID-19 treatment options [1]. For example, the anti-viral drug remdesivir is showing promise in reducing COVID recovery times [2, 3]. This received FDA emergency use authorization to treat COVID-19 in May 2020. Itolizumab and infliximab biosimilars are also being investigated [4].
 
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References
1. GaBI Online - Generics and Biosimilars Initiative. COVID-19 drug trials underway [www.gabionline.net]. Mol, Belgium: Pro Pharma Communications International; [cited 2020 Nov 6]. Available from: www.gabionline.net/Pharma-News/COVID-19-drug-trials-underway
2. GaBI Online - Generics and Biosimilars Initiative. Indian generics makers begin to dispatch remdesivir [www.gabionline.net]. Mol, Belgium: Pro Pharma Communications International; [cited 2020 Nov 6]. Available from: www.gabionline.net/Generics/News/Indian-generics-makers-begin-to-dispatch-remdesivir  
3. GaBI Online - Generics and Biosimilars Initiative. COVID-19 drugs Gilead’s remdesivir and Algernon’s alternative [www.gabionline.net]. Mol, Belgium: Pro Pharma Communications International; [cited 2020 Nov 6].Available from: www.gabionline.net/Generics/News/COVID-19-drugs-Gilead-s-remdesivir-and-Algernon-s-alternative 
4. GaBI Online - Generics and Biosimilars Initiative. Biocon and Celltrion make progress in the battle against COVID-19 [www.gabionline.net]. Mol, Belgium: Pro Pharma Communications International; [cited 2020 Nov 6]. Available from: www.gabionline.net/Biosimilars/News/Biocon-and-Celltrion-make-progress-in-the-battle-against-COVID-19 

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