All About EIDD-2801: A Little Known but Very Promising Covid-19 Drug
The world is waiting for an antiviral drug that can effectively treat Covid-19. Ideally, it would come in pill form so that it can be easily distributed across the globe and given at the first sign of symptoms. It should be safe in humans and pass the U.S. Food and Drug Administration approval process with flying colors. Millions of doses should be produced ahead of time to prepare for the day it is approved for use. Ideally, it would be developed by a team of antiviral drug experts tasked by the U.S. government to address pandemics. Sound too good to be true? Surprisingly, it isn’t. This drug exists and is called EIDD-2801. So why haven’t you heard about it?
The first time I came across it, I was lying in bed on a Sunday morning scrolling through LinkedIn. I was exhausted. I’d been traveling weekly from Washington, D.C. to New York City as part of a three-month fellowship for NBC News, and a new coronavirus epidemic had emerged in China. The World Health Organization had just named the disease Covid-19 but hadn’t yet declared a pandemic. While I would have preferred to sleep in, the news cycle ensured that I woke up every morning at 6 a.m. to check email. Medical history was being made, and I was working with some of the best journalists in the business.
After responding to a few messages, I began scrolling through social media. I stumbled across an article about a GoFundMe page launched by Emory University researchers. They had a drug for Covid-19 for which they were desperately seeking FDA approval. I read on. The drug, EIDD-2801, works by providing faulty building blocks to the machinery that the virus uses to multiply. My interest was piqued. According to another Emory article, the drug is effective in the lab against all coronaviruses, including SARS, MERS, and SARS-CoV-2, and it stops other RNA viruses that cause severe respiratory infections, like influenza virus and respiratory syncytial virus (RSV).
Holy cow! I immediately recognized the significance. If this drug worked against Covid-19, influenza, and RSV, doctors could prescribe it for an unknown flu-like illness before knowing the results of a Covid-19 test. At the time, the new coronavirus test was only available through the Centers…