• By The Financial District

Experts Slam Claim Prostate Cancer Drug From China Cut COVID Deaths By 77%

It would be the best news by far in COVID-19 treatment: According to a preprint published on 22 June, an experimental prostate cancer drug named proxalutamide reduced deaths in hospitalized COVID-19 patients by 77% in a clinical trial in Brazil.

The preprint, reported Robert Service for Science also claims the drug, which blocks the activity of androgens—male hormones such as testosterone—cut patients’ average hospital stay by 5 days, far more than any other treatment yet tested. Interim results of the study announced at a press conference in March, led President Jair Bolsonaro to tout proxalutamide as a wonder cure.

Proxalutamide is not approved in any country for any condition, but its manufacturer, Kintor Pharmaceuticals in China, is recruiting patients to test it for prostate cancer in the United States. For the COVID-19 study, Kintor teamed up with Applied Biology, a hair loss treatment company based in California where Flavio Cadegiani is a clinical director.

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In February, Cadegiani's team reported an encouraging early finding: Proxalutamide helped nonhospitalized patients with mild to moderate symptoms clear the virus much faster than those given a placebo.

But many scientists are wary. Alleged irregularities in the clinical trial have reportedly triggered an investigation by a national research ethics commission in Brazil.

Top medical journals have rejected a paper about the study, and its main author, Cadegiani, an endocrinologist, has previously touted unproven COVID-19 medications, such as ivermectin, azithromycin and antiworm compounds as COVID-19 therapies. And to many, the claims simply seem implausible.

But on June 8, the Brazilian newspaper O Globo reported that the Brazilian National Research Ethics Commission was investigating the study because the authors failed to report trial deaths as quickly as required by clinical trial rules in Brazil, and at different times reported a total of 170 and more than 200 deaths during the trial.

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Numerous researchers, including Topol and Jason Pogue, an infectious diseases clinical pharmacist at the University of Michigan, Ann Arbor, caution that the number of deaths in the trial is startling.

In the placebo group the fatality rate was 49.4%, which made the drug look better but is far larger than the less than 10% of hospitalized COVID-19 patients who die in the US. The speed of the trial, which only began in early February yet reported interim results in March, is suspicious as well, says Ana Carolina Peçanha, a pulmonologist at the Federal University of Rio Grande do Sul. “

To [recruit] and monitor about 600 patients in a study in less than 30 days is unbelievable,” she says.


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