Health Ministry commissions clinical trials on amantadine

The Health Ministry has commissioned the Medical Research Agency to start clinical trials on the use of amantadine in the treatment of COVID-19, said Adam Niedzielski, the ministry’s head on Tuesday.

Mr Niedzielski recalled at the press conference that amantadine was a drug originally recommended for the treatment of Parkinson's disease. He stressed that amantadine was only available for purchase on the Polish market solely for that purpose.

Due to the lack of literature presenting complete evidence for the effectiveness of amantadine in treating coronavirus, the Agency for Health Technology Assessment and Tariffication issued a negative recommendation.

However, irrespective of this recommendation, Adam Niedzielski announced that he had asked the Medical Research Agency to start clinical trials anyway. He said, the Agency will soon commission these tests in two centres.

In early September, it was found that amantadine has other medical properties, namely its antiviral activity could inhibit the infection of respiratory system cells.

Polish media reported in November that some doctors in Poland claimed amantadine is effective in the fight against COVID-19. At that time, a pulmonologist from Przemyśl, Dr Włodzimierz Bodnar, assured that he had documented over 100 cases of COVID-19 recoveries after prescribing this drug to his patients.

However, this statement caused a lot of controversy in the medical community. Amantadine has not been included in the latest, third recommendations of the Polish Society of Epidemiologists and Doctors of Infectious Diseases regarding the treatment of COVID-19 (published on October 13, 2020).

“We didn't do it because we didn't think it would be needed. There is no substantive or scientific basis for the use of amantadine in infections caused by the SARS-CoV-2”, argued at that time the head of the Society, Prof. Robert Flisiak.

Nevertheless, the effectiveness of the drug has drawn the attention of high-ranked state officials. Marcin Warchoł, the deputy Justice Minister wrote on Twitter on Sunday:

“Amantadine works for COVID-19 and I am the example. First my son, then my wife, finally me: high fever, tremendous pain, heavy cough, according to the doctor, it should be like that for seven days, with the climax about to come, so I took amantadine - the effect is striking! It worked!”.

Mr Warchoł then announced that he would demand that the Health Ministry take a closer look at amantadine.