These are the drugs being tested in fight against coronavirus

Written by nypost.com

Concept art of a pill with COVID-19 on it

President Trump announced Thursday that he’s fast-tracking the testing and possible use of existing drugs in the fight against the coronavirus.

“Nothing will stand in our way as we pursue any avenue to find what best works against this horrible virus,” Trump told reporters, as cases across the country soared past 11,00 with more than 150 deaths.

Trump specifically highlighted an anti-malaria drug called chloroquine and remdesivir — an antiviral developed to treat Ebola — as promising prospects.

“Clinical trials are already underway for many new therapies and we’re working on scaling these to allow many more Americans to access different drugs that are showing really good promise,” Trump said.

Here is a look at these and other drugs being looked at as possible panaceas:

Chloroquine and hydroxychloroquine (sold under the brand name Plaquenil and others):

Referring to chloroquine and a related drug, hydroxychloroquine, Trump said: “We’re going to be able to make that drug available almost immediately, and that’s where the FDA has been so great.”

The compounds are already widely available, as they’re used to treat existing ailments like malaria and arthritis — but FDA Commissioner Dr. Stephen Hahn cautioned that they haven’t yet been approved as treatment for coronavirus.

“That’s a drug that the president has directed us to take a closer look at as to whether an expanded use approach to that could be done, to actually see if that benefits patients,” Hahn said. “We want to do that in the setting of a clinical trial.”

Both of the medicines have been used for centuries to treat malaria, which is caused by a parasite, unlike the coronavirus.

Some studies have found it can still be effective in treating and preventing SARS, a close relative of COVID-19.

One of those studies was conducted in primate cells in 2005 amid the SARS outbreak, but never used as treatment as the disease was contained, Dr. Len Horovitz, a pulmonologist and internist at Lenox Hill Hospital told The Post.

“There was no reason to use it at that time but looking back, there was a feeling it could be used to reduce the possibility of being infected or as treatment,” for coronavirus, especially since “we know that its tolerated in people,” Horovitz said

A recent French study of hydroxychloroquine, sold under the brand name Plaquenil, was also promising — reporting that after 24 patients were treated for six days with the drug, the virus had disappeared in all but a quarter of them. But the research hasn’t yet been peer reviewed or published.

Horovitz warned that the drug hasn’t been approved as treatment for coronavirus.

“If you decide you’re going to take chloroquine, it doesn’t mean you should abandon all the prevention methods — it doesn’t take the place of social distancing,” he said.

Chloroquine and hydroxychloroquine are also among four treatments being tested in an international clinical trial announced Wednesday by the World Health Organization.

Remdesivir

Originally tested as an Ebola treatment, Gilead Sciences’ experimental antiviral drug Remdesivir has been found to work against SARS and MERS, two other coronaviruses.

The drug works by shutting off the virus’ ability to replicate inside cells.

Multiple trials are underway to evaluate the drug in China and other countries, and in the US, last month the National Institutes of Health began a randomized trial for the treatment of COVID-19 using the antiviral.

“There are promising therapies produced by Gilead and that’s Remdesivir,” Trump said Thursday. “It seems to have a very good result, having to do with this virus.”

Favipiravir (Avigan)

The Japanese anti-flu drug developed by a subsidiary of Fujifilm — yes, the photography company — has had encouraging outcomes in clinical trials in China.

Patients who were given the drug in Shenzhen tested negative for the virus after a median of four days after becoming positive. That was compared with a median of 11 days for those who were not given the medicine, Japanese public broadcaster NHK said.

Chest scans supported the findings, revealing less damage in those who took the drug. But some officials said it may not be effective in people who are already severely ill.

lLpinavir and Ritonavir (Kaletra)

Lab studies have suggested that the HIV drug Kaletra — which is a combination of antivirals lopinavir and ritonavir — could be effective in treating COVID-19.

The meds belong to a class of drugs known as protease inhibitors, which block a key enzyme that helps viruses replicate. Previous studies found the mixture was helpful in preventing SARS from maturing and replicating.

Enlarge ImageBottles of Kaletra, of the Abbott Laboratories, are displayed at a pharmacy in Brasilia, Brazil.
Bottles of Kaletra, of the Abbott Laboratories, are displayed at a pharmacy in Brasilia, Brazil.AFP/Getty Images

Doctors in Thailand and Japan have reported using lopinavir and ritonavir to successfully treat the coronavirus — but a recent study in China of 200 seriously ill patients found that it had no benefit.

Kaletra is being included in the WHO study launched this week.

Vaccines

Hahn on Thursday said a vaccine will likely take 12 months.

Scientists at the Kaiser Permanente Washington Research Institute in Seattle on Tuesday began the first stage of a potential COVID-19 vaccine by administering shots to volunteers.

Forty-five healthy volunteers, ages 18 to 55, have signed up to receive two doses of the possible vaccine — code-named mRNA-1273 — a month apart.

Some of the participants will receive higher dosages than others to determine how strong the shots should be.

The researchers are also looking for any side effects and will test blood samples to see if it’s impacting the immune system.

Meanwhile, another candidate developed by Inovio Pharmaceuticals announced that human clinical trials would begin in April.

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Comments (3)

  • Avatar

    Jerry Krause

    |

    Hi Folks,

    Notice the difference between a bureaucrat and a practical person.

    “That’s a drug that the president has directed us to take a closer look at as to whether an expanded use approach to that could be done, to actually see if that benefits patients,” Hahn said. “We want to do that in the setting of a clinical trial.”

    Both of the medicines have been used for centuries to treat malaria, which is caused by a parasite, unlike the coronavirus.

    “There was no reason to use it at that time but looking back, there was a feeling it could be used to reduce the possibility of being infected or as treatment,” for coronavirus, especially since “we know that its tolerated in people,” Horovitz said.

    Have a good day, Jerry

  • Avatar

    K Kaiser

    |

    There’s hardly any drug against any ailment that does not have any undesirable side effects, at least for some people.

    Still, any drug “approved” as treatment for one or more ailments that, based on some evidence, may show a positive effects against another ailment and is considered as potential treatment for that, ought to be readily approved “on an experimental basis” with all the contra-indications and provisos as for its other uses.

    For example, there are well over 2,500 substances with anti-malarial effects in the TerraTOX-Antimalarials database (http://www.terrabase-inc.com//antimalarials.pdf ). Many of such compounds are not “approved” drugs, etc.

    However, if any “antimalarial” compound were to be found as an effective agent against viral infections of any kind, perhaps they should all be studied in greater detail in this context.

  • Avatar

    Tom O

    |

    It was with interest that I read an article on Dr Roy Spencer’s site regarding this. I believe what he pointed out was simply that the nations reporting many cases of COVID-19 had no cases of malaria, while nations that were reporting many cases of malaria were reporting virtually no cases of COVID-19, and there seemed to be an inverse relationship as countries reporting less cases of one were reporting more of the other. It would suggest that the treatments for malaria may have a repressive effect on COVID-19.

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