TAIPEI (Taiwan News) — Taiwan has started clinical trials for the use of the antiviral drug remdesivir to treat Wuhan coronavirus (COVID-19), the Central Epidemic Command Center (CECC) announced on Thursday (March 19).
CECC expert Chang Shang-chun (張上淳) announced that clinical trials for the use of remdesivir to treat COVID-19 have started in Taiwan. He said that Taiwanese who are confirmed as having the disease can be treated with the drug, if deemed appropriate and after permission has been granted by the individual.
Remdesivir is still under development and has not received a drug permit license in Taiwan. Chang said that as long as confirmed COVID-19 cases meet certain requirements, they will have the opportunity to receive the drug, but he did not specify what those conditions are.
Chang pointed out that in addition to remdesivir, anti-HIV drugs combined with interferons are being trialed on people who have COVID-19 in Taiwan. Chang said other drugs are being tested and experts will evaluate whether they should be included in the recommended treatment guidelines.
During a press conference on Feb. 26, Shih Chung-liang (石崇良), director-general of the Ministry of Health and Welfare's Department of Medical Affairs and a CECC official, said that remdesivir may have a curative effect on COVID-19. He said the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) has approved clinical trials of the drug and after being contacted by National Taiwan University Hospital (NTUH), the FDA is prepared to allow Taiwan to participate in the clinical trials, reported CNA.
Shih said that under the preliminary plan, northern, central, and southern Taiwan will have a designated hospital take part in the trials, according to the report.
Health Minister and CECC head Chen Shih-chung (陳時中) said that Taiwan will participate in multinational, multi-center clinical trials for the drug. The country will set strict standards for the selection of individuals for the trials, he stated.
Meanwhile, Taiwan's leading academic institution, Academia Sinica, on Feb. 26 announced on Facebook that a team of scientists had managed to synthesize one gram of remdesivir at a 99 percent level of purity. The institute stated the purpose of synthesizing the drug is not to rush to production but to test and prevent problems before manufacturing begins.
Academia Sinica announced the team of seven scientists had managed to replicate remdesivir "from nothing to self-production, 100 mg, high purity." Academia Sinica President James C. Liao (廖俊智) said this achievement proves the institute has the ability to undertake drug synthesis operations.