esearchers are studying several types of drugs to treat the novel coronavirus or COVID-19 that has spread to over 200 countries, taking a massive human toll of nearly 2.6 lakh as of Wednesday morning. About 37 lakh positive cases have been identified, including almost 50,000 cases in India. Most drugs being worked upon are repurposed and are largely anti-viral drugs used previously to treat other conditions. For instance, Favipiravir, or Avigan was used to treat influenza in Japan. Likewise, Remdesivir was tested on Ebola.
Here’s a list of some of the drugs which are being used to treat the patients of Coronavirus and are in advanced trial stages:
Gilead’s Remdesivir: Gilead last week received the US Food and Drug Administration’s emergency use authorization for using remdesivir as a treatment against COVID-19, after the drugmaker provided data showing the drug had helped COVID-19 patients. Remdesivir was previously available only for patients enrolled in clinical trials or those cleared to get the drug under expanded use and compassionate use programs. The company is in discussions with chemical and drug manufacturers to produce the drug for Europe, Asia and the developing world through at least 2022.
Favipiravir: Marketed under the brand Avigan, the drug works by preventing the virus from replicating in cells. It was developed in 2014 by Fujifilm Toyama Chemical, a unit of Fujifilm Holdings, as an influenza drug. Japanese PM Shinzo Abe wants the drug approved for COVID-19 in May. The country is ramping up its stockpile and is expected to ship the drug to 43 countries for clinical studies on its effectiveness. Fujifilm began a phase 2 clinical trial in Massachusetts in April. Both China and Japan have been studying favipiravir to treat the deadly virus for months. It also has been tested in Italy, and a trial is set to begin in India.
Lopinavir-Ritonavir: The duo belongs to a class of drugs known as HIV protease inhibitors and generally used in combination. Ritonavir increases (“boosts”) the levels of lopinavir. This helps lopinavir work better. The drug helps to decrease the amount of HIV in a body so that the immune system can work better, lowering the chances of getting HIV complications. A Wuhan study this year (2020) found that the ritonavir/lopinavir combination was not effective in combating Covid-19. But study results indicated a potential by repurposing the drugs.
Hydroxychloroquine or HCQ: The antimalarial drug attained instant stardom in mid-March when US President Donald Trump dubbed it as a game-changer for the treatment of COVID-19. The optimism with the drug as an even effective medicine to ward off infection too has faded with regulators and scientists raising concerns about potential side effects. The drug was initially developed as an antimalarial variant for patients who were sensitive to chloroquine. It is also used to reduce inflammatory responses in illnesses like rheumatoid arthritis, lupus, and Porphyria cutanea tarda (PCT).
Plasma therapy: Another treatment, while not a drug, that has shown promise is plasma therapy. The method uses convalescent plasma which is extracted from the blood of recovered COVID-19 patients. This plasma contains antibodies that neutralize SARS-CoV-2.
Besides, scientists are also working on developing vaccines based on isolating anti-bodies. For instance, Israel’s Biological Research Institute has claimed that it has isolated an antibody that could be effective in treatment against coronavirus.In a separate development, a team of Italian scientists from the company Takis was able to isolate antibodies in mice that blocked the virus from infecting human cells. Testing was carried out at Rome’s Spallanzani Institute.