South Africa’s Department of Defence is being accused of spending a whooping R215milion importing Covid-19-related drugs which are reportedly neither registered nor approved for use in South Africa.
Local media news24 reported that it had accessed a confidential letter indicating that the military Health Services (SAMHS) spent on consignments of the drug Heberon Alpha R 2B also known as Interferon.
According to pharmacists, Interferons are proteins used in the body as part of its natural defense against viruses. The interferon Alpha-2B, manufactured by a Cuban-Chinese company, is believed to be effective in the fight against Covid-19.
Cuba’s experience on effectiveness of interferon-alpha2b against Covid-19
Several clinical studies have provided evidence for the antiviral effects of type I interferons (IFNs) in patients with respiratory coronaviruses. A particular study assessed the therapeutic efficacy of IFN-alpha 2b in patients infected with SARS-CoV-2 during the first month after the outbreak began in Cuba.
The multicenter prospective observational study was conducted in 16 hospitals in 8 Cuban provinces. Participants were patients with confirmed SARS-CoV-2 infection detected from throat swab specimens by real time RT-PCR who gave informed consent and had no contraindications for IFN treatment.
Patients received therapy as per the Cuban COVID protocol, that included a combination of oral antivirals (lopinavir/ritonavir and chloroquine) with intramuscular administration of IFN-alpha 2b (Heberon Alpha R, Center for Genetic Engineering and Biotechnology, Havana), 3 times per week, for 2 weeks.
In this study, the primary endpoint was the proportion of patients discharged from hospital (without clinical and radiological symptoms and non-detectable virus by RT-PCR).
The secondary endpoint was the case fatality rate (CFR), defined as the number of confirmed deaths divided by the number of confirmed cases. Results from March 11th to April 14th, 814 patients were confirmed SARS-CoV-2 positive in Cuba, 761 (93.4%) were treated with Heberon Alpha R and 53 received the approved protocol without IFN treatment.
The proportion of fully recovered patients was higher in the IFN-treated compared with non-IFN treated group (95.4% vs 26.1%, p<0.01). The CFR for all patients was 2.95%, and for those patients who received IFN-alpha 2b the CFR was reduce to 0.92.
The estimated global CFR is 6.34% and 4.05% for the Americas reported by WHO and PAHO, respectively. In this study, 82 patients (10.1%) required intensive care and, of these, 42 (5.5%) were treated with IFN.
The report provides preliminary evidence for the therapeutic effectiveness of IFN alpha-2b for COVID-19 and suggests that the use of Heberon Alpha R may contribute to complete recovery.