Pharmaceutical companies and hospitals are participating in 58 studies of possible treatments against the coronavirus in our country, in which more than 28,000 patients will participate
In recent years, Spain has become one of the five leading European countries in terms of the number of clinical trials. According to the ‘Spanish Medicines and Healthcare Products Agency’ (Aemps), 3,142 such trials were launched in Spain between 2013 and 2017, most of them promoted by the pharmaceutical industry, which has meant a growth of almost 50% since 2004.
It is now also a leader in conducting clinical trials to test the efficacy of new drugs developed by pharmaceutical companies against Covid-19. According to the ‘World Health Organization’ (WHO) data collected by ‘Farmaindustria’, Spain is the fourth country in the world where the most clinical trials are being conducted to test the effectiveness of drugs against coronavirus. Specifically, 58 studies have been launched in Spain, a figure only surpassed by China (154), the US (109) and Iran (63). In Europe, Spain is in first place, followed by France (51 trials), the UK (17), Germany (16), Denmark (13) and Italy (11).
In these 58 clinical trials, more than 332 Spanish hospitals and an estimated 28,000 patients will also participate, according to Ministry of Health data, collected by ‘Farmaindustria’. In addition, 67 other observational studies have been launched to assess the effectiveness of medicines in actual clinical practice.
The pharmaceutical laboratories, in addition to coordinating these trials, are also donating all the doses of medication needed to carry out the public initiative research.
Trials led by pharmaceutical companies
More than a dozen companies in the pharmaceutical field are carrying out this research.
Rovi and Rubió, and the Spanish subsidiaries of Gebro and Novartis, are conducting trials with hydroxychloroquine – a drug used to treat malaria, arthritis and lupus – in 62 hospitals in thirteen autonomous communities, involving more than 4,000 health professionals. Reig Jofre, from Spain, has begun a double-blind clinical study among a sample of 300 health professionals at risk of contracting Covid-19, administering Manremyc, an oral food supplement.
Novartis is also developing other studies in Spain to test the effectiveness of ruxolitinib and canakinumab, which are authorised for various rare types of cancer and inflammatory diseases. Sanofi is investigating the efficacy of its drug sarilumab, authorised for rheumatoid arthritis, in critical patients hospitalised in ICUs for coronavirus.
The Swiss company Roche is investigating the efficacy of its drug tocilizumab, which is authorised for rheumatoid arthritis and could be used by patients with severe Covid-19 pneumonia. The US company Abbvie is testing the results of the combination of two antiretrovirals, Iopinavir and Ritonavir, in a worldwide trial also involving Spanish hospitals.
In Spain, Jazz Pharmaceuticals is evaluating the drug defibrotide – usually used for complications with haematological transplants – in the prevention and treatment of respiratory distress. Sobi is financing a study in Spain to analyze the effect of the drug anakinra -an immunosuppressant for inflammatory diseases- on patients with severe Covid-19 pneumonia. And AstraZeneca is investigating in Spanish hospitals whether its drug budesonide, an inhaled corticoid, reduces the risk of acute respiratory distress.
Research and economic opportunities
In recent years, Spain has become a powerhouse in the development of clinical trials, becoming the preferred destination for some clinical research investors after the USA. The strength of our healthcare system, the prestige of our researchers and doctors, the country’s logistics and research infrastructure, careful administration and pioneering legislation have all contributed to this preferential position.
Spanish health centres and researchers participate in one out of every three clinical trials against coronavirus in Europe. Spain’s leading role in clinical research into anti-coronavirus drugs may be an opportunity to attract both international investment in the health system and to improve the treatment of Covid-19 patients, given that health professionals involved in scientific research are at the forefront of the treatment of the disease.
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