(TRINIDAD NEWSDAY) – NO one will be forced to participate in covid19 drug trials, said University of the West Indies faculty of medical sciences dean Professor Terence Seemungal.
He was speaking Sunday during a UWI virtual symposium on the impact of covid19 on health systems.
This week it was announced that UWI has been approached by the World Health Organization (WHO) to do “solidarity trials” as part of its contribution to the regional effort to deal with the covid19 pandemic. Seemungal previously reported that the trials will take place at the university’s campuses in TT, Jamaica, Barbados and The Bahamas. The trials will compare four drug treatment options against the standard care in each country to determine their effectiveness against the virus. The drugs to be tested are remdesivir, lopinavir, ritonavir, interferon beta, and hydroxychloroquine.
During the symposium question and answer segment, Seemungal was asked why UWI had gone in the direction of the trials, what was the process for approval and whether concerns regarding the ethics, safety and “medical colonialism” were merited.
Seemungal said UWI has organised the expertise to do the study but the decision to do it is a country-specific decision. He said covid19 has spread across the world and generally drug trials are not frequently done in the Caribbean population.
“So we don’t ever get for our patients to be looked at with regard to (their) response to the various therapies. And we presume that what applies in the North American or European situation applies here.” He explained that pre-approval by WHO to be part of the study was not the same thing as approval for patients to do the study. He said approval for patients to take part in any study requires that it goes through the localised ethics approval process. He noted in the case of TT there is a national ethic committee at the Health Ministry and a UWI ethics committee and both approvals are required.
“In all such studies no one is forced to participate. So the person is explained what it means to be in the study and then they have a decision (to make) whether they enter the study or not.”
He recalled prior to the start of the local national study of lung disease, which required people to do spirometry (a pulmonary test to measure lung function), there was a general feeling that Trinidadians would not want to do it. He said, however, they had a 96 per cent participation rate.
“So I would keep an open mind on it.”
Also during the symposium Senior Fellow at the UWI Sir Arthur Lewis Institute of Social and Economic Studies Dr Godfrey St Bernard said in terms of covid19 cases Barbados and TT had growth and then “levelling off”.
“It seems favourable for the two countries.”
He said in TT the number of cases could level off in the vicinity of 120 (the number of samples testing positive as at Sunday were 116) and Barbados could level off at 90 (cases currently stand at 81) though “no one knows where it will end.”