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COVID-19 Clinical Development Advancements in MENA

As the COVID-19 pandemic continues to impact patients globally, clinical researchers throughout the Middle East and North Africa are rapidly testing investigational medicines and vaccine candidates in clinical trials. These trials are vital to determining the impact a potential new treatment may have on patients, while providing necessary insights to drive promising COVID-19 therapies forward in a quick, safe and efficient manner.

According to Khaled Abdel Ghaffar, the Egyptian Minister of Higher Education and Scientific Research, Egypt has conducted the highest number of COVID-19 clinical trials in the MENA region, totaling 65 trials to date. Among these studies are ongoing trials to evaluate Avigan, an antiviral agent used to treat influenza. After an initial trial of 50 Egyptian COVID-19 patients in April, Egypt is set to receive more doses to further study the medicine’s safety and efficacy.

Similarly, current clinical trials in Bahrain and Saudi Arabia are studying the effectiveness of convalescent plasma from recovered COVID-19 patients to treat newly-diagnosed subjects. The study, recently approved by both the Saudi Ministry of Health and Saudi Food and Drug Authority, is being conducted at more than 20 health and research centers throughout the Kingdom and employing a team of 21 researchers with specialties in hematology, immunology, infectious diseases, intensive care and blood transfusion.

Dimitri Livadas, Managing Director of Eli Lilly Saudi Arabia, recently stated, “Clinical trials have two very big benefits for the Kingdom. Firstly, they provide data in the long run with respect to safety and efficacy, catered specifically to the Saudi population. Secondly, they impact local investment and build healthcare capabilities.”

Researchers are exploring creative solutions to move promising therapies forward. This work includes accelerating early phases of clinical study and completing various phases simultaneously. Innovative thinking, paired with strong intellectual property protections, is needed to ensure continuity in clinical research and widen patient access to new COVID-19 treatments and vaccines. Countries who choose to embrace and adopt pro-innovation policies will continue to attract more clinical trials, thus benefiting the health of their populations.


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