Covid: Dapsone, a promising and affordable therapy under rolling review

Published by Laurent P. · Published on 4 December 2021 at 10h18
And what if Canada just found an effective Covid therapy? Searchers from the Montreal McGill university launched in late November the 3rd phase of a clinical trial on dapsone, a therapy with anti-inflammatory properties working against cytokine storms. Its asset? Being affordable compared to the other therapies under rolling review or currently administrated, particularly expensive.

And what if anti-inflammatory dapsone – used against leprosy and in ophthalmology – was effective against Covid? A hypothesis that scientists from the McGill university in Montreal are intending to prove through a clinical trial which phase 3 has been launched in late November 2021. They say the antibiotic has anti-inflammatory properties likely to be effective against cytokine storms (a sharp inflammation of airways – Editor’s note) that caused hospitalizations and deaths in Covid cases. The therapy has another asset: being affordable (a couple dollars per pill), compared to the other therapies currently available, and which cost quite a lot.

There are monoclonal antibodies and soon antiviral, but they are very expensive and in the first case, they consist in injections. We need something we can use wider, especially in poor countries”, MUHC Research Institute pneumologist and expert in Chronic Obstructive Pulmonary Disease (COPD) Dr. Jean Bourbeau explains to our Canadian peers from La Presse. As for the clinical trial completing phase 3, “we aim at getting 1,500 COVID-19 patients, but we will carry on a safety assessment after 500 patients treated”, the doctor continues.

Volunteers aged 70+, as well as patients from 40 to 69 years old and likely to develop severe disease will get the therapy a few days after contamination. “If it works with patients the most at risk, we can widen the therapy indications”, Dr. Bourbeau specifies. This pill could be – if the clinical trial is conclusive and if the therapy is approved by the medicine agencies – given as a preventive medicine. “It is really too soon to consider, but the lower cost of dapsone obviously would help this option”, the pneumologist concludes.

This is not the first clinical trial on the matter… South Korea has been working on dapsone to cure Covid as well and has started a smaller study, on 22 patients, after scientists from the Seoul university noticed residents of a leprous colony on the isle of Sorok were less impacted by the disease. They are all given dapsone for leprosy. The clinical trial results have been issued in June 2021 in the Vaccines magazine, showing dapsone was effective in hospitalized patients in respiratory distress with mortality moving from 40% to 0%. The Canadian clinical trial is likely to deliver similar results and make their contribution in the fight against coronavirus.

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