Drugs and convalescent plasma therapy for COVID-19: a survey of the interventional clinical studies in Italy after 1 year of pandemic

Trials. 2022 Jun 22;23(1):527. doi: 10.1186/s13063-022-06474-8.

Abstract

Background: The 2019 novel coronavirus disease (COVID-19) pandemic has highlighted the importance of health research and fostered clinical research as never before. A huge number of clinical trials for potential COVID-19 interventions have been launched worldwide. Therefore, the effort of monitoring and characterizing the ongoing research portfolio of COVID-19 clinical trials has become crucial in order to fill evidence gaps that can arise, define research priorities and methodological issues, and eventually, formulate valuable recommendations for investigators and sponsors. The main purpose of the present work was to analyze the landscape of COVID-19 clinical research in Italy, by mapping and describing the characteristics of planned clinical trials investigating the role of drugs and convalescent plasma for treatment or prevention of COVID-19 disease.

Methods: During an 11-month period between May 2020 and April 2021, we performed a survey of the Italian COVID-19 clinical trials on therapeutic and prophylactic drugs and convalescent plasma. Clinical trials registered in the Italian Medicines Agency (AIFA) and ClinicalTrials.gov websites were regularly monitored. In the present paper, we report an analysis of study design characteristics and other trial features at 6 April 2021.

Results: Ninety-four clinical trials planned to be carried out in Italy were identified. Almost all of them (91%) had a therapeutic purpose; as for the study design, the majority of them adopted a parallel group (74%) and randomized (76%) design. Few of them were blinded (33%). Eight multiarm studies were identified, and two of them were multinational platform trials. Many therapeutic strategies were investigated, mostly following a drug repositioning therapeutic approach.

Conclusions: Our study describes the characteristics of COVID-19 clinical trials planned to be carried out in Italy over about 1 year of pandemic emergency. High level quality clinical trials were identified, although some weaknesses in study design and replications of experimental interventions were observed, particularly in the early phase of the pandemic. Our findings provide a critical view of the clinical research strategies adopted for COVID-19 in Italy during the early phase of the pandemic. Further actions could include monitoring and follow-up of trial results and publications and focus on non-pharmacological research areas.

Keywords: COVID-19; Clinical trials; Convalescent plasma; Drugs; Study design; Therapeutic class.

MeSH terms

  • COVID-19* / therapy
  • Clinical Trials as Topic
  • Humans
  • Immunization, Passive / methods
  • Pandemics*
  • Research
  • SARS-CoV-2

Supplementary concepts

  • COVID-19 serotherapy