The 3 Most Promising Coronavirus Treatments, Explained
What to know about the clinical trials for remdesivir, chloroquine, and more
Scientists are scrambling to find a treatment for Covid-19. While there are no FDA-approved therapies yet, seven U.S. clinical trials listed on clinicaltrials.gov are currently recruiting patients infected with the novel coronavirus. Another 33 trials testing treatments for Covid-19 are ongoing, the majority of which are taking place in China. Perhaps most exciting, last week the WHO announced the launch of a multi-drug clinical trial that will enroll thousands of patients from dozens of countries.
The three most promising drugs or drug combinations so far, all of which are included in the WHO trial, are the anti-malaria pills chloroquine or hydroxychloroquine, the antiviral drug remdesivir, and the HIV drugs lopinavir and ritonavir. Several of the trials also include antibiotics and immune system modifiers in combination with the antiviral drugs to try to boost the response. Here’s some information about each one.
Remdesivir is a broad-spectrum antiviral drug that interferes with a virus’ ability to replicate. It was originally developed to treat Ebola but had only limited success. However, a study from 2017 showed that remdesivir was able to successfully stop SARS and MERS — sister coronaviruses to the new strain — in both human cells and animal models. In February, Chinese scientists found that remdesivir successfully blocked the novel coronavirus, SARS-CoV-2, from replicating in human cells.
Encouraged by these findings, the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases (NIAID) selected remdesivir for the first Covid-19 clinical trial in the United States, which started on February 25. The trial is being conducted at 33 hospitals across the U.S., plus four others in Japan, South Korea, and Singapore. Soon after, Gilead, the drug company that developed and manufacturers remdesivir, launched two trials — one in moderate patients, one in severe — at 17 locations in the United States, Hong Kong, South Korea, Singapore, and Taiwan. Gilead is also offering emergency access to remdesivir on a “compassionate use basis” to people who are not able to enroll in a clinical study. Trials…