THE US is running 72 new separate coronavirus drug trials – but there’s not enough researchers to make sure they actually work.
The race for a cure has left labs inundated with proposals but short of researchers to conduct the trials, a Food and Drug Administration (FDA) official says.
Dr Janet Woodcock explained: "Although we may not run out of patients, unfortunately, we may run out of research personnel and time availability to do that in this way of having separate development programs".
In the webinar attended by Business Insider she said the FDA has received 950 inquiries and proposals for coronavirus drugs, 211 of which are currently already in 'planning stages' of development.
"That's a rather overwhelming amount in such a short time," Dr Woodcock said.
We may run out of research personnel and time availability to do that in this way of having separate development programs.
As the world races towards a treatment, some of the frontrunners are beginning to report results.
Hydroxychloroquine and remdesivir have garnered the most attention but have had mixed results.
Remdesivir -originally developed to treat Ebola – had been described by the World Health Organisation (WHO) as the biggest hope of treating coronavirus.
President Trump also touted the potential for remdesivir and said it “seems to have a very good result."
Early favorites for treating coronavirus – a combination of HIV drugs lopinavir and ritonavir – has yielded disappointing results, but some clinical trials are still ongoing.
Other studies are investigating whether everything from convalescent plasma from recovered coronavirus patients to experimental cancer drugs and arthritis medications can combat the virus.
US biotech research and development were set to get more than $720 million in funding as of earlier this month, according to USASpending.gov.
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Big Pharma companies like Johnson & Johnson, Gilead, and Novartis are also pouring money into treatment studies.
But running a clinical trial requires researchers and the most robust and reliable the trials, the more researchers are needed.
One single trial could be run across multiple hospitals in various states, requiring a large team of scientists to oversee thousands of patients.
An extensive amount of human resources are needed to properly investigate each of the proposed treatments individually.
Dr Woodcock is advocating for an 'adaptive' approach to studies where researchers test several potential treatments as part of one trial protocol, comparing the results of multiple different treatments to a single control group.
In the UK these measures are already being undertaken, as well as being applied to at least one National Institutes of Health (NIH) trial that focuses most prominently on remdesivir.
Dr Woodcock, who oversees the FDA's Center for Drug Evaluation and Research, also said that the potential shortage of researchers to staff coronavirus treatment trials and general difficulty of finding therapeutics underscores broader issues in how research is conducted in the US.
"This crisis underlies and points out the need to have better clinical trial infrastructure in place," she said.
Another trial to find treatments to aid coronavirus patients' recovery is under way, with 7,000 people taking part across the UK.
It is known as the "Recovery Trial" and participants will be given one of four drugs or a placebo.
The medicines on trial include HIV drugs and hydroxychloroquine, a malaria drug.
The NHS has also launched the world's largest clinical trial for coronavirus treatments – and needs more patients to take part.
CASES NEAR ONE MILLION
Coronavirus cases in the United States are close to reaching one million as the total number of deaths is just below the White House's 'best case scenario' projection of 60,000.
On Sunday, the number of Americans infected with COVID-19 soared to 987,590 confirmed cases – up 27,446 cases from Saturday.
The number of deaths has reached 55,519, jumping by 1,400 since Saturday.
The figures position the United States as the nation with the largest number of infections in the world.
Modeling done by the University of Washington's Institute for Health Metrics and Evaluation predicted 60,415 COVID-19 deaths by August 4 and was recently cited by President Trump at a press conference.
With the death toll continuing to climb, that number is likely to be surpassed within the next week.
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