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Q&A: ‘ENDEMIC DISEASES LIKE HIV ARE STILL AN EMERGENCY’

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Dr. Sinead Delany-Moretlwe, Director of Research at the Wits Reproductive Health and HIV Institute in Johannesburg, South Africa:

Q. Currently, clinical trials can take years to reach Phase IV. The Covid-19 pandemic has shown us how much quicker it can go. Do you think there are lessons that can be taken from this?

A: We have learned a lot during the Covid-19 pandemic about how we can potentially expedite processes and get products to the people that need them rapidly and I think it’s important to remember that in our region, endemic diseases like HIV are still an emergency. While we don’t want to cut corners and while we want to ensure that we have safe and effective products for people, something that Covid-19 vaccine trials may need to grapple with is no longer using placebo-control trials as it is harder to justify from an ethical perspective, especially as more vaccines begin to hit the market.

Q. What does this then mean from a design perspective for trials going forward?

A. Trial design is going to be very interesting to see going forward. In terms of just the processes, there have been discussions about how to diminish the transition time from Phase II to Phase III and these large gaps that affect when results are being received. 

Q. What lessons are there for clinical trials running during a pandemic such as the current one? 

A. Future trials are going to have to Covid-proof themselves. We learned during conducting our trial, sibling trials during a pandemic are challenging and we’re going to have to think about how we do these studies so that we are managing staff and participant safety. 

Further Reading

PLEASE NOTEMore stories regarding the Covid-19 vaccine will be published. However, if you would like to read the full Focus piece by Simone Sribrath, click here to download the digital copy of FORBES AFRICA.

What Goes Into A Clinical Trial? (Forbes Africa)

All You Need To Know About The Vaccine (Forbes Africa)

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