Covid-19 drug clinical trials in Africa kicks off with Kenya

Influenza vaccine

A high risk patient receives an influenza vaccine.

Photo credit: Johan Nilsson | TT NEWS AGENCY | AFP

The Kenya Medical Research Institute (Kemri) has begun a clinical study to test whether two available drugs in the market can treat Covid-19 patients with mild and moderate symptoms in Africa.

The trial, ANTICOV, being conducted in 19 sites in 13 African countries will begin testing, against a control arm, the HIV anti-retroviral combination lopinavir/ritonavir and the malaria drug hydroxychloroquine, which remains the standard of care for Covid-19 today in numerous African countries.

The trial, which is the largest in Africa, aims to respond to the urgent need to identify medication that can be used to treat mild and moderate cases of Covid-19 early and prevent spikes in hospitalisation that could overwhelm fragile and already overburdened health systems in Africa.

ANTICOV is an open-label, randomised, comparative, ‘adaptive platform trial’ that will test the safety and efficacy of treatments in 2,000 to 3,000 mild-to-moderate Covid-19 patients in Burkina Faso, Cameroon, Côte d’Ivoire, the Democratic Republic of Congo, Equatorial Guinea, Ethiopia, Ghana, Guinea, Kenya, Mali, Mozambique, Sudan, and Uganda.

Large-scale mortality

“It is heartening to see so many African countries collaborate to get much-needed answers about our unique Covid-19 patient needs,” said Dr Borna Nyaoke-Anoke, a senior clinical project manager at Drugs for Neglected Diseases initiative (DNDi), an international non-profit drug research and development group with extensive partnerships in Africa.

“Africa has for the most part avoided the large-scale mortality seen in other countries, but with lockdowns ending and borders reopening, we need to be prepared. We need research here in Africa that will inform policies and test-and-treat strategies so that, as clinicians, we can give the best options to people with Covid-19.”

African context

Dr John Nkengasong, director of the Africa Centres for Disease Control and Prevention, said there is a need for large clinical trials in Africa for Covid-19 to answer research questions that are specific to an African context.

“African countries have mounted an impressive response so far to Covid-19. Now is the time to prepare for future waves of the disease.

“We welcome the ANTICOV trial led by African doctors because it will help answer one of our most pressing questions: With limited intensive care facilities in Africa, can we treat people for Covid-19 earlier and stop our hospitals from being overwhelmed?”

The German Federal Ministry of Education and Research provides the major funding for the ANTICOV consortium.

Already, the Kenyan government has permitted hospitals to use Remdesivir, has been found to speed up recovery of severely ill Covid-19 patients despite the global health body questioning its effectiveness. The Pharmacy and Poisons Board has authorised five Kenyan companies to import and supply the drug to select hospitals from June

The drug was approved for emergency use on Covid-19 patients two months ago.

Kenya is also participating in a clinical trial to evaluate the effectiveness and safety of ChAdOx1 nCoV-19, a Covid-19 vaccine candidate developed by the University of Oxford in partnership with AstraZeneca.

The trial being conducted at Kemri, Kilifi Wellcome Trust Research Programme, will evaluate whether the vaccine is safe, effective and elicits good immune responses in 40 frontline workers in Kilifi County.


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