Canadian COVID-19 trial gets additional $3.5 million in federal funding

The Canadian arm of a major international clinical trial-led by a University of British Columbia researcher-that aims to find the best treatment for COVID-19 has received an additional $3.5 million in funding from the federal government through the Canadian Institutes of Health Research (CIHR).

The Canadian Treatments for COVID-19 (CATCO) trial is the Canadian arm of the World Health Organization’s (WHO) global SOLIDARITY clinical trial, which involves nearly 100 other countries.

Canada’s participation in the trial will give Canadians hospitalized with COVID-19 access to the drugs under study. It will also contribute to the evidence being gathered by the WHO from all the country studies on which drugs are safe to give patients and most effective in treating COVID-19.

Dr. Srinivas Murthy

Dr. Srinivas Murthy

“The CATCO trial is both a way for Canadians to get the best, most evidence-informed care, and to produce evidence that will lead to us understanding which treatments will work best for COVID-19,” says the trial’s principal investigator Dr. Srinivas Murthy, a clinical associate professor in the University of British Columbia’s department of pediatrics, and an infectious diseases and critical care physician at BC Children’s Hospital.

The new funding adds to initial support of more than $950,000 that the research team received from CIHR in early March.

With the new funding from CIHR, the researchers will expand the number of hospitals participating in the trial. The trial started by evaluating lopinavir-ritonavir, a combination of antiviral agents also used in treatment of HIV, and has since added hydroxychloroquine and remdesivir, all compared with optimized supportive care in improving survival outcomes for patients hospitalized with COVID-19.

New drugs and therapies will be added into the trial as they become available for further study as part of the global trial. Data collected from participating hospitals will be submitted to a central repository managed by the WHO.

“In the absence of a vaccine, findings treatments that are safe, effective, and available is a major global priority to help reduce the burden of mortality of this disease, and the best way of finding those treatments is by the world working together,” says Murthy.

The trial is co-led by Dr. Robert Fowler, critical care physician at Sunnybrook Health Sciences Centre in Toronto, which is sponsoring the CATCO trial and helping to coordinate it at all Canadian hospitals.

The CATCO trial is being conducted with support from CIHR, as well as the Canadian Critical Care Trials Group and the Association of Medical Microbiology and Infectious Disease Canada.

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