Diabetes is one of COVID-19 risk factors. In fact, type 1 and type 2 diabetes was the leading single cause of co-morbidity during the pandemic. People with diabetes have a hugely increased risk of death from COVID-19, but scientists are looking for new more effective treatments to help them. Now researchers at UCL revealed that a new COVID-19 treatment is currently undergoing trials and is showing promising results.
This drug, called AZD1656 was chosen because it could activate immune system cells to fight COVID-19 while avoiding the overactive response of the immune system which causes damage to the organs. Researchers performed a randomised, double-blind, placebo-controlled trial involving 158 patients and found that AZD1656 reduces the number of COVID-19 deaths among patients with diabetes. Importantly, AZD1656 is well-tolerated – patients involved in the trial faced no adverse side effects.
This information will allow scientists to continue towards more extensive clinical trials. Researchers hope that AZD1656 will help save lives of people with diabetes who became one of the most vulnerable groups during this COVID-19 pandemic. Scientists found that AZD1656 would be beneficial regardless of the virus mutations. In fact, it could be used to treat other infections as well, because it activates immune cells. AZD1656 is an oral tablet, which makes its administration very easy.
John Martin, one of the authors of the study, said: “We have demonstrated our ability to rapidly deliver a clinical trial in 16 months from conception to completion. The promising results from this trial indicate that AZD1656, a simple oral tablet, has the potential to become a new treatment for Covid-19.”
AZD1656 was gifted to the charity by Astra Zeneca – one of the COVID-19 vaccine manufacturing companies. Scientists found this drug when looking for something that would have undergone phase I clinical trials, because it speeds up the trials. When medicine is approved or at least some testing is completed, it is easier to repurpose it for other things. Pharmaceutical industry often abandons safe medicine for commercial reasons or simply because other drug candidates prove to be more effective. And that's why AZD1656 can be put through clinical trials much faster.
Scientists also hope that AZD1656 can help people suffering from long COVID. It could help the immune system to reach at least somewhat of a balance, which in turn would ease up symptoms. Because this pandemic is far from over, it is important to continue the development of drugs that can improve our chances of getting through this global problem with the least amount of damage possible.