A popular Indian financial news platform liveMint recently reported that physicians from Bangladesh Medical College Hospital (BMCH), led by Dr. Tarek Alam, found that a combination of the anti-parasitic drug ivermectin in combination with antibiotic Doxycycline yielded “astounding results” against the novel coronavirus called SARS-CoV-2. The TrialSite Investigator Network is a database of over 100,000 clinical investigators leveraged by the TrialSite News team to contact Dr. Alam for a brief interview. He confirmed the positive results with their off-label use of ivermectin and Doxycycline to date and made some helpful clarifications.
TrialSite News systematically assesses news sources such as the liveMint, which is the online portal for Indian financial news media platform Mint, one of India’s premier business news publications—purportedly ranked second among business papers in terms of readership. The asset is owned by HT Media, a Delhi-based media group which is controlled by the KK Birla family and also publishes the Hindustan Times. It mostly targets a business audience. The group is owned by billionaire industrialist Kumar Birla. His father, founder of the conglomerate, was one of India’s richest and most respected businessmen—and a staunch follower of Mahatma Gandhi. Other news sources that picked up this story were all based in southeast Asia (e.g. India or Bangladesh) such as NortheastNow, Inventiva and the Dhaka Tribune. Luckily, TrialSite News was able to leverage the investigator network contact information for a direct interview with the physician and research in Dhaka.
Pandemic in Bangladesh
As of this writing, the nation of 162 million—the eight most populous in the world—reports 23,870 known active cases with 349 deaths. Anxieties have run high there over the concern of social, economic and political turmoil—not to mention unprecedented health crisis’ should the pandemic breakthrough current lockdowns. Much is at risk: since the early-2000s, rapid economic growth has fueled a remarkable increase in national progress. The nation’s per capital income nearly tripled between 2010 and 2020 and real opportunities for health and clinical research have opened up based on a recent TrialSite News research summary.
Bangladesh Medical College (BMC) is actually the first private medical college in Bangladesh, according to its website. The college and the hospital are run by Bangladesh Medical Studies and Research Institute (BMSRI), a non-profit organization. The hospital is affiliated with the University of Dhaka as a constituent college. According to its website, the college is recognized by the Bangladesh Medical and Dental Council since 1986. Additionally, they are listed in the World Directory of Medical Schools effective 1995 published by World Health Organization (WHO). According to their website, graduates of BMC are eligible for limited registration with the General Medical Council of United Kingdom; they are also eligible to take the United States Medical License Examinations (USMLE).
Discussion with Dr. Alam
By leveraging the TrialSite Investigators Network, TrialSite News managed to get through to Dr. Alam, a wonderfully cordial and supportive doctor dedicated to the healthcare of all. The Dhaka-based physician and professor commented that although some press referred to the effort as a “study,” based on TrialSite News’ questioning, it was not a formal regulatory approved study but rather an ongoing, hospital-specific, approved off-label use of medication for some COVID-19 patients with escalating conditions. More specifically, they are combining a dosage of ivermectin 200 mcg/kg once orally with Doxycycline.
A Well-known Safety Profile
Dr. Alam confirmed that the COVID-19 patients began showing results within days and that thus far there have been no reported adverse reactions or safety issues of any kind. In fact, he emphasized that ivermectin has been used for many years as an anti-parasitic treatment, and at those existing recommended doses, it is deemed safe. Alam pointed out that the medical team first learned of the potential from the Australian research and then began reaching out to other physicians in Bangladesh and then more broadly with network peers in other parts of Asia, Europe and the United States, to discuss the potential off-label use at least for select novel coronavirus cases.
Need for Randomized Controlled Trials
Dr. Alam noted that this cannot be declared a cure or a treatment yet; this very important point is not accurately emphasized by other media. He correctly declared what he and his colleagues have observed thus far. He understands the importance and requirement of randomized controlled trials for more specific and forceful claims.
Dr. Alam reports that some of the doctors at his institution are organizing a regulatory approved clinical trial involving the use of ivermectin with COVID-19 patients. TrialSite News monitors the situation for more specifics. The principal drug regulatory agency in Bangladesh is the Directorate General of Drug Administration (DGDA)—it functions under the Ministry of Health and Family Welfare in the national government.
Need for Ongoing Collaboration
Dr. Alam also commented on activity involving various approaches to COVID-19 in conjunction with ICDDRB, an international health research institute based in Dhaka, Bangladesh. Dr. Alam reports that scientists from other nations, including the United States, get involved with ICDDRB.
Dr. Alam reports that this organization working on new research associated with COVID-19. Based in Dhaka, Bangladesh, they are committed to solving public health challenges facing low-and middle-income countries through innovative scientific research: including laboratory-based, clinical, epidemiological and health systems research. They aim to improve the health and wellbeing of people living in the world’s poorest nations by developing, testing and assessing the implementation of interventions specifically designed for resource-poor settings. TrialSite News algorithms monitor this organization for activities associated with COVID-19.
They were established in Dhaka in the 1960s as the South-East Asia Treaty Organization (SEATO) Cholera Research Laboratory. Early on, they developed an international reputation in diarrheal disease research. Among notable early achievements was their role in the development, testing and implementation of oral rehydration solution (ORS)—a treatment they publish on the website that is estimated to have saved millions of lives worldwide.
Dr. Tarek Alam, Associate Professor, Department of Medicine, Bangladesh Medical College, Dhaka
Call to Action: TrialSite News interviewed Dr. Alam as he represents one of over 100,000 clinical researchers in the TrialSite Investigators Network. For more information, contact us.