Sri Lanka not providing novel treatment for coronavirus patients

ECONOMYNEXT – Sri Lanka is not trying innovative treatments for Coronavirus patients using anti-HIV drug cocktails unlike some other countries but is providing already approved ‘supportive’ therapy, a senior health official said.

“So far the whole globe is trying to find a treatment and vaccine but until such time we will provide supportive therapy,” Thilanka Ruwanpathirana, Consultant Epidemiologist of Sri Lanka Ministry of health said told reporters in Colombo.

“In the past few days patients have been cured entirely on supportive therapy but not through definitive therapy”.

One Chinese tourist was treated at a hospital Sri Lanka who had got well.

Most viral infections pass after several days as the immune system fights back. Antibiotics which are high effective against bacteria cannot help with viral infections.

“If the body gets adequate support, it could get rid of the virus itself,” Ruwanpathirana said.

Hospitals usually make sure that patients are well hydrated, rested and temperatures do not get out of hand and they do not fall victim to other bacterial or other infections.

However elderly patients and those with other chronic complications may be at more risk.

“The problem is with elderly patients and those who are with diseases like hyper-tension, kidney diseases and people on long term steroids therapy,” said Ruwanpathirana.

Several countries have been trying out new treatments

Chinese doctors have said that they had been giving anti-HIV drugs to coronavirus patients in Beijing, based on a 2004 study published after the outbreak of Severe Acute Respiratory Syndrome (SARS) that showed “favourable” responses.

Two drugs lopinavir and ritonavir decrease the amount of HIV cells in a patient’s blood, reducing its effect.

Doctors have also combined the treatment with another anti-flu drug called oseltamivir.

In Thailand, doctors said, a 71-year-old Chinese patient returned a negative test within 48 hours of being given the three drugs.

But Thai doctors have warned that the medicine has to be given under supervision due to possible side effects.

The United States is working with a pharmaceutical company called Regeneron to develop a drug using a class of medicine for Ebola.

Regeneron will develop monoclonal antibodies to fight the infection, a different line of treatment to the antiretrovirals and flu drugs that have also emerged as possible defenses against the disease, AFP news agency reported.

Monoclonal antibodies are lab-produced copies of a single type of antibody and are a form of immunotherapy.

They lock on to certain proteins on a virus, neutralizing the pathogen’s ability to infect human cells.

Regeneron’s REGN-EB3, a mixture of three monoclonal antibodies, was last year shown to significantly boost survival rates among Ebola patients in the Democratic Republic of Congo.

California-based Gilead Sciences said they are working with Chinese authorities on clinical trials to determine if remdesivir, an antiviral drug used to treat SARS is effective.

However, Sri Lankan health officials are not authorized to use any experimental medicine such as HIV.

“We have no authority to use (HIV medications) but we are trying various other methods,” said Ruwanpathirana.

He said Sri Lanka could also try experimental therapies with the consent of patient, but there were ethical and approval process that has to be followed. (Colombo/Feb05/2020)