International societies call on researchers to apply clinical pharmacology principles in search for safe and effective treatments for COVID-19

International societies call on researchers to apply clinical pharmacology principles in search for safe and effective treatments for COVID-19

The Australasian Society of Clinical and Experimental Pharmacologists and Toxicologists and the British Pharmacological Society have published a joint international statement calling on researchers to apply clinical pharmacology principles in search for safe and effective treatments for COVID-19. The statement was published in the British Journal of Clinical Pharmacology and endorsed by international organisations* across the world.

The statement welcomes international efforts to safely expedite clinical trials in the search for a treatment. However, it cautions that many studies do not include the information that is needed to safely translate a promising treatment from research to clinical practice. It sets out five principles that are intended to give research efforts the best chance of success to identify potential treatments:

  1. The drug must work against the virus in cells or animal models at doses which are relevant for humans
  2. The amount of drug reaching the cells and organs affected by the virus must be adequate to either kill the virus and/or reduce inflammation.
  3. There needs to be a good understanding of how the virus infects and multiplies within the body and how this relates to the clinical features of COVID-19.
  4. The information from the above 3 principles should be used to define the optimal doses and duration of therapy (or therapies when more than one drug is used).
  5. Well-designed trials must be undertaken to show that the drug works in treating the disease and is safe.

Professor Carl Kirkpatrick, Immediate Past, President of the Australasian Society of Clinical and Experimental Pharmacologists and Toxicologists, and one of the authors of the statement, said:

The international clinical pharmacology community has much expertise to offer the COVID-19 effort. Clinical pharmacologists are experts in the development and use of medicines – the principles we use can help establish not just whether a drug will work but crucially, whether it will be safe. We hope that the principles outlined in this statement will help funders, researchers, media and policy makers navigate the known challenges of drug discovery and development.

Professor Sir Munir Pirmohamed, President of the British Pharmacological Society, and one of the authors of the statement, said:

This statement sets out principles that will ultimately help develop drugs that can be used for the treatment of COVID-19.

“It is all very well if a treatment works in vitro – but if it cannot reach effective doses in the lung or other target organs, or if it is toxic, it will fail. Similarly, treatment with an antiviral only for a patient with severe disease as a consequence of a ‘cytokine storm’ may not be sufficient. We hope that this advice will help researchers embed clinical pharmacology principles at all stages of research, to help identify the right dose, for the right patient, at the right time.”

The statement is free to access. Read it in full here.

*List of endorsing organisations:
American College of Clinical Pharmacology (ACCP)
American Society for Clinical Pharmacology and Therapeutics (ASCPT) –
American Society for Pharmacology & Experimental Therapeutics (ASPET)
Asia Pacific Federation of Pharmacologists (APFP)
Chinese Pharmacological Society (CNPHARS)
European Association for Clinical Pharmacology and Therapeutics (EACPT)
Faculty of Pharmaceutical Medicine (FPM)
Japanese Society of Clinical Pharmacology and Therapeutics (JSCPT)
Japanese Pharmacological Society (JPS)
International Pharmaceutical Federation (FIP)
International Union of Basic and Clinical Pharmacology (IUPHAR)