Press review

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Italian institute to press ahead with research of hydroxychloroquine for Covid-19 despite international doubts

FLORENCE, 29 May (APM) - Researchers at an Italian institute have said they will press ahead with research of hydroxychloroquine for Covid-19 despite international doubts, Il Resto del Carlino reported on Wednesday.
The World Health Organization (WHO) suspended testing for the malaria drug this week because of safety concerns (APMHE 67486).
The Romagnolo Scientific Institute for the study and treatment of Tumours (IRST) is investigating the use of hydroxychloroquine as a preventative treatment. The scientific director, Giovanni Martinelli and the head of the biostatistics and clinical trials unit, Oriana Nanni, made a statement on Tuesday to underline the importance of the research, the paper reported.
They described the WHO's action as precautionary based on insufficient scientific evidence. They warned that, if it is extended and confirmed, it will prevent the scientific community from understanding the real value of the drug.
Martinelli and Nanni highlighted the huge investment, both financial and in professional resources, being made by IRST and others such as the University of Oxford. They also noted that the WHO has raised concerns about hydroxychloroquine as a therapy whereas IRST is studying it in prevention.
A study published in The Lancet, which highlighted the risks associated with the drug, was cited. The Italian scientists stressed the study was not a clinical trial designed to evaluate the efficacy and safety of hydroxychloroquine or chloroquine used alone or in combination with antibiotics on hospitalised patients. "It is a large collection of data," they said.
The Lancet article itself states that the results of the study do not demonstrate a cause-effect relationship on excess mortality or other negative outcomes. "Only randomised clinical trials will be able to demonstrate the real value of these drugs," it says.
The IRST researchers questioned why the results of the study have had such an impact. "Before the pandemic would publication have caused such hostility towards a drug?" they asked.
IRST has said it will continue its research into hydroxychloroquine unless medicines agency AIFA takes action to stop it.

14 website sites blocked for illegally selling Covid-19 treatments

A total of 14 websites were blocked this week by police for illegally selling drugs as Covid-19 treatments, Il Giornale reported on Wednesday.
The antimalarial drug hydroxychloroquine, which is also used for rheumatoid arthritis, was one of the drugs being sold, the paper said. It noted that medicines agency AIFA authorised its use for treating Covid-19 patients but only in hospitals.
The websites offered lopinavir/ritonavir, darunavir and cobicistat, all hospital-only drugs, for sale. Medicines containing colchicine, a gout therapy which is being tested as a treatment of Covid-19, were also available.
The cancer drug ruxolitinib, which is part of a compassionate use programme for patients diagnosed with Covid 19 and with serious or very serious lung diseases, was another, Il Giornale said. Antibiotic azithromycin was advertised despite AIFA having recently warned it could cause serious interactions with other drugs used for Covid-19.
Other drugs used for doping in sports, pain-relief and for erectile dysfunction, were also available on the sites as Covid-19 treatments.
The police warned that buying and selling prescription drugs such as these is not only prohibited by Italian law, but is also extremely dangerous.

Pharmacy drug spending fell 0.2% in 2019

Reimbursement spending on drugs distributed through the contracted pharmacy network fell 0.2% in 2019 compared to a year earlier, La Sicilia reported on Tuesday.
The paper cited a report by the trade association Federfarma as showing that a 0.9% decline in the number of prescriptions was behind the lower expenditure. It was only partially offset by a 0.8% increase in the average value of each prescription as a result of a rise in the average price of prescription drugs.
The most prescribed medicine continued to be Cardioaspirin, followed by Dibase for vitamin D deficiencies. Among branded drugs, spending on Pantorc (pantoprazole) fell 9% while Bisoprol and Cardicor, both beta-blockers, had increasing sales.

Milan hospital has positive results from tolicizumab Covid-19 study

Milan's San Raffaele hospital has had positive results from a study of tolicizumab in Covid-19 patients, Il Giorno reported on Tuesday.
The research looked at 65 patients in a serious condition but not in intensive care. Of those, 33 were treated with hydroxychloroquine and lopinavir/ritonavir with 32 receiving tolicizumab.
The study showed that 69% of those receiving tolicizumab had clinical improvement compared to 61% of people receiving standard care. The results were described as "encouraging" but "not a panacea".
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