Medicine

Clinical trial of ‘effective’ Chinese herbal medicine to treat Covid-19 under way – Pakistan

KARACHI: A research facility at Karachi University (KU) in collaboration with the Indus Hospital (IH) has recently begun clinical trial of a traditional Chinese medicine to treat mild cases of Covid-19, sources told Dawn on Monday.

According to researchers at Dr Panjwani Centre for Molecular Medicine and Drug Research at KU, the trial will test the efficacy and safe use of Jinhua Qinggan Granule – a combination of natural herbs widely used during the Covid-19 outbreak in China.

It consists of 12 herbal components including honeysuckle, mint and licorice.

“The medicine tested in China has been found to have curative as well as preventive effects. It’s one of the top drugs recommended in China’s national guidelines against Covid-19,” said lead investigator of the study Prof Raza Shah, adding that the medicine had so far been given to 15 Covid-19 patients in Karachi.

Asked about the reason for testing the medicine only for mild cases, Prof Shah explained that it was the first such trial in Pakistan being conducted under an international protocol. “We are also excluding patients with other health complications to minimise chances of any adverse reaction with other drugs.”

Under the partnership with the IH, 300 patients capable of adhering to principles of home isolation would participate in the trial. The lab samples of patients would be tested at KU facility while registration of patients would be carried out at the hospital which would also offer its intensive care units, if required.

According to researchers, compliance to the drug regime would be ensured by keeping a regular contact with patients. The trial is likely be completed in four to five months.

Citing studies in China, they said the medicine had a curative effect in treating mild and moderate patients and could also improve the recovery rate of lymphocytes and white blood cells, besides reducing the rate of patients’ condition turning severer.

A comparative experiment, they said, showed patients who took Jinhua Qinggan Granule tested negative for coronavirus two and a half days earlier than a group that did not take the granule. The group treated with the granule also took eight days to show improvement, while the other group took 10.3 days.

Dr Naila Baig Ansari representing the Indus Hospital said: “The medicine available in sachets over the counter in China was developed during the 2009 H1N1 influenza pandemic. It has shown its efficacy against Covid-19.”

Prof M. Iqbal Chaudhary, the Director of International Center for Chemical and Biological Sciences (ICCBS), said the trial had been approved by the National Bioethics Committee and Drug Regulatory Authority of Pakistan and a licence to conduct the trial had been acquired.

“The fact that the trial is meant for mild cases doesn’t lessens its significance. Not all mild cases of Covid-19 recover. Hence, it’s important that we test its efficacy in our population.”

Prof Chaudhry described the clinical trial as a welcome sign for the country and said it would directly benefit Pakistan as these studies would help make the drugs available at low cost and strengthen country’s research capacity.

Published in Dawn, September 29th, 2020

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