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COVID-19 drug trials have struggled to recruit volunteers throughout pandemic

COVID-19 vaccines have been developed at a rapid pace that has largely exceeded expectations, and while there are varying levels of success, several appear to be quite effective. The United States government poured a lot of money into the research, which helped push the development finish line up, but the heavy focus on vaccines did leave coronavirus therapeutics behind, The New York Times reports.

A few drug treatments have helped doctors improve the care of COVID-19 patients, but several ideas that looked like they were gaining steam petered out. One of the key factors was a lack of centralized coordination, the Times suggests. Hospitals and researchers have often been left on their own to conduct trials and many have subsequently struggled to find volunteers who were not already hospitalized.

For instance, the University of Kentucky began a trial in May to test a drug called camostat. Normally used to treat inflammation of the pancreas, camostat’s ability to destroy a protein the virus depends on to infect human cells had scientists optimistic it could work as a COVID-19 antiviral. But over the past eight months, the research team just hasn’t been able to consistently track down patients who recently received a COVID-19 diagnosis.

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“This has been the source of delays for essentially all of the trials around the world,” Dr. James Porterfield, an infectious disease clinician at the University of Kentucky College of Medicine, told the Times. Read more at The New York Times.