MOH DG Lauds Clinical Trial for Severe COVID-19 Cases

Yayasan Sime Darby channels RM600,000 for study on the use of Tocilizumab in preventing severe infections from progressing to critical stage which require ventilation assistance
Director-General of Health Malaysia Datuk Dr Noor Hisham Abdullah

Kuala Lumpur, 30 April 2020 – Yayasan Sime Darby (YSD) has committed to fund clinical trials led by University Malaysia Medical Centre (UMMC) to treat severe COVID-19 cases utilising Tocilizumab (TCZ), a medication used to treat rheumatoid arthritis, in the fight against the COVID-19 pandemic.

An allocation of RM600,000 will cover the costs of analyser equipment, monitoring kits and control reagents required for clinicians to conduct the potentially life-saving initiative for a period of seven months until October 2020, for 310 selected patients.

In collaboration with the Ministry of Health (MoH), the innovative clinical trials are conducted at four hospitals (UMMC, Hospital Sungai Buloh, Hospital Kuala Lumpur and Hospital Tuanku Ja’afar, Seremban), in collaboration with professors from Yale University, who have extensive experience in using TCZ to treat COVID-19 patients.

MoH Director-General Datuk Dr Noor Hisham Abdullah lauded the initiative which involved a partnership between the public and private sectors. He said: “We are heartened to see the various efforts from private organisations in helping the country face the multitude of challenges due to the pandemic.

"I am happy to note that the private sector is now contributing to the progress of urgent research work such as this clinical trial. We hope that they will continue to support the government's efforts to fight this pandemic from all angles, including to find effective and safe treatments for COVID-19 patients. It is also important for researchers to follow protocols and not compromise on quality and safety," he added.

An initial study by UM Faculty of Medicine (UMFOM) found that TCZ administration prevented six out of eight severe COVID-19 patients from needing mechanical ventilation, which carries a high risk of mortality.

“We are pleased to announce Yayasan Sime Darby’s support for the clinical trial on this treatment to help mitigate the severity of the infection. This can subsequently reduce the number of patients requiring support by ventilators, which are in short supply,” said Sime Darby Berhad Group Chief Executive Officer Dato’ Jeffri Salim Davidson. Sime Darby Berhad is one of three Yayasan Sime Darby donors.

Dean of UMFOM Professor Dato’ Dr Adeeba Kamarulzaman who is the study’s Principal Investigator said the clinical trial which will compare TCZ with an immunosuppressant drug Methylprednisolone, is important to ascertain the ideal time to start the TCZ treatment. She noted: “It is also to determine if TCZ has better outcomes on patients and to identify any potential side effects so that the drug can be used safely and effectively.”

Dr Adeeba emphasised the importance of the trial as it could help clinicians find the best treatment to reduce morbidity and mortality associated with COVID-19 infection. She said such initiatives will encourage collaborative research efforts, as well as knowledge sharing among healthcare professionals locally and abroad, to save precious time and avoid overlapping research work.

“We are grateful to the Ministry of Health, Yayasan Sime Darby as well as other organisations and individuals who have come forward in support of this important clinical trial. We are proud to announce that we have reached the fund-raising target of RM1.5 million which will enable us to conduct the trial,” she added.

YSD has so far committed more than RM5.6 million for more than 30 COVID-19 Emergency Response Initiatives, to support efforts that address the immediate needs of individuals and communities impacted by the pandemic.

The funds are used to support medical providers and frontliners; vulnerable communities such as B40 households, Orang Asli communities, people with disabilities, public university students; a wildlife conservation centre, as well as underprivileged employees of Sime Darby Berhad and Sime Darby Property Berhad.

These initiatives would not be possible without the generous contributions from the three Sime Darby companies as well as project partners for coordinating the distribution of assistance.

The project partners are Sime Darby Plantation Berhad, Sime Darby Industrial Sdn Bhd, the Government-Linked Companies (GLC) and Government-Linked Investment Companies (GLIC) Disaster Response Network (GDRN), MERCY Malaysia, Pusat Hal Ehwal Pelajar Universiti Kebangsaan Malaysia (HEP-UKM), Malaysia International Search & Rescue (MISAR), University Malaya Medical Centre (UMMC), Perak State Park Corporation (PSPC), the Cultural Economy Development Agency (CENDANA), Tesco Malaysia, Econsave, Kechara Soup Kitchen, Dignity for the Children Foundation, UMFOM, Pusat Pengurusan Wakaf, Zakat dan Endowmen (WAZAN) at Universiti Putra Malaysia (UPM), OKU Sentral, Borneo Sun Bear Conservation Centre (BSBCC), The Lost Food Project and the Sarawak Federation of Chinese Associations.

Breakdown of YSD’s commitments for COVID-19 response initiatives.

Breakdown of YSD’s project partners and amount committed for COVID-19 response initiatives.

YSD has ramped up its relief efforts to support the Orang Asli communities in Malaysia where they have lost much of their ability to generate income and maintain their livelihood.

Pusat Pengurusan Wakaf, Zakat dan Endowmen (WAZAN) distributed YSD-sponsored food items and hygiene kits to UPM students and staff from B40 group.

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Last Updated:
24 Sep 2020
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