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The World Health Organisation’s Solidarity trial testing possible COVID-19 treatments

A closer look at the study set to take place in multiple countries, including South Africa. More than 70 countries have already confirmed they will contribute to the research.

Resource details:

Title: Solidarity clinical trial for COVID-19 treatments resource page

Author(s): World Health Organisation (WHO)

Publication date: 18 March 2020

What the page is about:

WHO and partnering countries will investigate four possible treatments for COVID-19 as part of the trial. The organisation hopes study findings will be accelerated by simplifying clinical trial entry procedures and scaling participation across collaborating countries.  

Key takeaways from the Solidarity resource page:

What the trial is about

  • The international trial will test the efficacy of four treatment options: Remdesivir; Lopinavir/Ritonavir; Lopinavir/Ritonavir with Interferon beta-1a; and Chloroquine or Hydroxychloroquine.
  • The study will compare the results from these medications in treating COVID-19. Key considerations include whether the drugs slow the progression of the disease and improve the survival rate of those infected.

Profile of the trial treatment options

  • Remdesivir was previously tested as a treatment for other coronavirus-caused diseases. These include Severe Acute Respiratory Syndrome (SARS) and Middle East Respiratory Syndrome (MERS-CoV). The drug has shown “promising results in animal studies” for these coronavirus diseases, the WHO notes. In addition to this, the drug was previously tested as a possible treatment for Ebola.
  • Chloroquine and hydroxychloroquine are similar drugs. They are used in treating malaria and rheumatic conditions, or diseases causing the inflammation of the body’s supporting and connecting structures, such as joints and ligaments. 
  • Interferon beta-1a is currently used as a treatment for multiple sclerosis.
  • Lopinavir/Ritonavir is a combination of antiretroviral drugs licensed for the treatment of HIV. The drug combination’s effectiveness in treating coronavirus-caused diseases is currently inconclusive. Lab experiments with the treatment-cocktail have shown some favourable results in treating patients with COVID-19, the WHO notes. However, and importantly: more decisive evidence is required. 
  • The WHO reminds medical practitioners and the public that scientific evidence supporting the efficacy of these drugs in potentially treating COVID-19 is limited. In light of this, the organisation warns against the current prescription and use of these treatments.  

Participating in the Solidarity trial

  • To be eligible to take part in the study, volunteers must meet four criteria. They should be 18 or older, have a definite case of COVID-19, be admitted into a participating hospital and be able to safely take the proposed treatments, according to their doctor.
  • As with all clinical trials, the Solidarity study must obtain informed consent from all participants, meaning that risks and benefits of the trial must be clearly explained to volunteers before they sign on.  
  • Following this, patients will be randomly assigned a treatment plan. This could either be the local standard of care together with one of the four trial treatment options, or just the local standard of care.
  • Neither the patient nor the treating healthcare worker can choose which treatment option patients receive.

You can find the Solidarity clinical trial resource page here.

[Please note: Information on the new coronavirus is rapidly changing. Please refer to the World Health Organisation for the latest information. Visit for updates on South Africa’s coronavirus response.]

Gopolang Makou was the impact and engagement officer at Bhekisisa.