Physicians at Sagar Hospitals in the affluent Bangalore community known as Jayanagar report that a drug used to treat hepatitis, HIV and even some forms of cancer seems to be helping to treat patients experiencing mild to severe COVID-19 infections. Specifically, the doctors have been using Thymosin Alpha1 (Tα1), an endogenous peptide initially isolated from the thymic tissue nearly four decades ago. Apparently starting a few years ago, the therapy was considered for its immunostimulatory activity. At Sagar Group of Hospitals, physicians have observed that the drug restores immune T cells and possibly may inhibit the deadly cytokine storm associated with more severe SARS-CoV-2 infection’s acute respiratory distress syndrome (ARDS). The hospital case series activity is led by Dr. R Ravi Kumar, consultant intensivist and head ICU & critical care for Sagar Group of Hospitals. He reports a success rate of 85%. But not all physicians and researchers agree on use of this drug unless it’s formally approved in a clinical trial.
To date, the physicians at Sagar Hospital in Bangalore’s Jayanagar community have treated over 200 patients infected with SARS-CoV-2 ranging in the 40 to 60 years of age group. Administered by a critical care team, reports the Times of India, the physician leads report a success rate of 85% out of a patient population including 50% who suffered mild to moderate infection while the rest were severe cases.
The results are promising. Dr. Kumar reports this drug has kept a majority of patients away from the need for a ventilator with no side effects observed. He shared, “Once we complete treating 1,000 patients with this drug, we will submit a research paper to an international journal.”
Of course, this is not a randomized controlled trial but observational data such as this can be very valuable for providing evidence as well.
Apparently in India a vial (1.6mg—two are administered daily) of the drug costs Rs 1,300 ($17.55) or $35.10 per treatment as two doses of the drug are administered daily for seven days. The total treatment regimen in India equals $245.70.
To Stick to the Protocol or Not?
The Times of India reports that few studies have looked into this particular drug, reported Dr. Anoop Amarnath, geriatrician and member of the Indian government COVID-19 management Critical Care Support Team (CCST). Dr. Amarnath emphasized the drug shows promise but more research data is necessary.
While Dr. Ravindra Mehta appears to think that using this drug is a waste of time. The pulmonologist and member of BBMP, a therapeutic committee, declared he isn’t sold on the drug’s efficacy. Others are taking a middle ground, such as Dr. S. Sacchidanand, head of a clinical task force and vice-chancellor, Rajiv Gandhi Institute of Chest Diseases pointed out, “There are certain drugs mentioned in the protocol which clinicians can use on an experimental basis at their discretion. Thymosin is not one of them. We have not allowed for deviations. Clinicians should stick to the protocol.”
On the other hand, Sacchidanand is alright if Thymosin is used in a clinical trial that ‘s secured all regulatory and ethical permissions.
About Sagar Hospitals
Sagar Hospitals® is a landmark Bangalore-based healthcare services center with two tertiary care multi-specialty hospitals with 655 beds, four clinics and a chain of 12 pharmacies. They also maintain polyclinics in Muscat and Dubai. The hospital chain is a division of Sagar Group established in 1960.
Dr. R Ravi Kumar, consultant intensivist and head ICU & critical care for Sagar Group of Hospitals