Trials and tribulations: so many potential treatments, so few answers Journal Articles uri icon

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  • PURPOSE: The purpose of this review is to quantify the landscape of current clinical trials ongoing for therapies in the treatment of COVID-19. A secondary purpose is to examine the relationship between public and scientific interests in potential therapies for COVID-19. METHODS: A systematic search of was undertaken on April 22, 2020, to identify all currently registered clinical trials investigating potential therapies for patients with COVID-19. Public interest in the various therapies was quantified utilizing Google Trends. Public interest in hydroxychloroquine and chloroquine was plotted against the cumulative number of active clinical trials evaluating antimalarials as potential COVID-19 therapies over time. RESULTS: There were 341 interventional studies and 208 different therapies actively registered on whose primary aim is the treatment of COVID-19. The median sample size was 120 patients (range 4-6000) with 154 (45%) trials reporting a planned sample size of 100 patients or less. There was a strong positive correlation (r = 0.76, p = 0.01) between the number of registered clinical trials and the public interest in the top ten proposed therapies. Following the spike in public interest, the average number of new trials increased tenfold with respect to antimalarial therapies. CONCLUSIONS: The relatively small sample sizes and the number of independent trials investigating similar therapies are concerning. Resources may not be being allocated based on scientific merit and may be driven by public consciousness and speculation. Moving forward, a concerted effort focused on implementing large, well-coordinated and carefully designed multi-armed clinical trials will help to ensure that the most promising therapeutic options are rigorously studied and clinically meaningful results produced.


  • Gazendam, Aaron
  • Nucci, Nicholas
  • Ekhtiari, Seper
  • Gohal, Chetan
  • Zhu, Meng
  • Payne, Abbey
  • Bhandari, Mohit

publication date

  • August 2020