The study identifies 21 existing drugs that could treat COVID-19

Multiple drugs improve the activity of remdesivir, a current standard-of-care treatment for COVID-19.


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AN international research team led by Sumit Chanda, Ph.D., professor at Sanford Burnham Prebys Medical Discovery Institute, has identified 21 existing medications that stop the replication of SARS-CoV-2, the virus that causes COVID-19. They identified one of the world’s largest collections of known drugs for their ability to block the replication of SARS-CoV-2.

The study reported about 100 molecules with confirmed antiviral activity in laboratory tests. Of these, 21 drugs were determined to be effective at concentrations that could be safely achieved in patients. Notably, four of these compounds were found to work synergistically with remdesiver, a current standard-of-care treatment for COVID-19.

Remdesivir found to be effective at reducing the recovery time for patients in the hospital, but the drug doesn’t work for everyone who receives it.

Chanda said, “That’s not good enough. As infection rates continue to rise in America and around the world, the urgency remains to find affordable, effective, and readily available drugs that can complement the use of remdesivir, as well as drugs that could be given prophylactically or at the first sign of infection on an outpatient basis.”

Scientists performed extensive testing and validation contemplates, including assessing the drugs on human lung biopsies that were infected with the virus, assessing the drugs for synergies with remdesivir, and establishing dose-response connections between the drugs and antiviral activity.

  • Of the 21 drugs, 13 have previously entered clinical trials for other indications and are effective at concentrations, or doses, that could potentially be safely achieved in COVID-19 patients.
  • Two are already FDA approved: astemizole (allergies), clofazamine (leprosy), and remdesivir have received Emergency Use Authorization from the agency (COVID-19).
  • Four worked synergistically with remdesivir, including the chloroquine derivative hanfangchin A (tetrandrine), an antimalarial drug that has reached Phase 3 clinical trials.

Scientists are now testing all 21 compounds in small animal models and “mini lungs,” or lung organoids, that mimic human tissue.

On the off chance that these examinations are positive, scientists will approach the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) to talk about a clinical trial(s) assessing the drugs as medicines for COVID-19.

Chanda said“Based on our current analysis, clofazimine, hanfangchin A, apilimod, and ONO 5334 represent the best near-term options for an effective COVID-19 treatment. While some of these drugs are currently in clinical trials for COVID-19, we believe it’s important to pursue additional drug candidates, so we have multiple therapeutic options if SARS-CoV-2 becomes drug-resistant.”

Journal Reference:
  1. Riva, L., Yuan, S., Yin, X. et al. Discovery of SARS-CoV-2 antiviral drugs through large-scale compound repurposing. Nature, (2020). DOI: 10.1038/s41586-020-2577-1


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