When can we expect the medicines for COVID?

Numerous efforts are being made all around the world to develop new medication for the COVID 19 virus or, yet better develop a vaccine that entirely prevents the human body from getting infected.

With the whole world shut down due to the pandemic, it has become really hard for some people to live. People have been losing out on their jobs or their salaries have been cut in half or they altogether haven’t received a salary for the months the country was under lockdown. This lockdown has also created a lot of psychological problems that may not be noticeable right now but in the long run, can prove fatal to some.

With the total number of COVID cases surpassing 6.4 million in the world and, each day the numbers increase the situation has become grave. Medical researchers and drug companies are working day and night on a vaccine that would save humanity from the virus. But because of the shortage of time and resources, the conclusions drawn from these tests are not very reliable.

At present, for the treatment of coronavirus, the doctors are prescribing a combination of already existing medicines to the patients. Researchers are looking into already present antiviral medicines like malarial drugs in hopes that they would prove effective in the battle with the virus.

On May 8, three medications received an emergency authorization from Food and Drug Administration, where were the anti-malaria drugs chloroquine and hydroxychloroquine, the anti-viral redeliver, and a drug used to sedate people on a ventilator. India played a huge role in providing for the hydroxychloroquine medicines by exporting 285 million tablets to 40 countries on a commercial basis and five million tablets were gifted to nations as an aid to fight against the pandemic.

A small biotech company called Sorrento Therapeutics announced in May that it has found an antibody-drug that has been effective in early testing in blocking the virus, the drug will act as both, treatment and prevention against COVID 19. But the drug is still being tested and it might be months before we get a definitive answer, therefore for now maintaining social distancing and self-isolation are the best tools for prevention.

Research

It’s a long process before a vaccine is approved for use. The pipeline is in such a way that the compound moves from the laboratory development to laboratory, then to animal testing and then clinical trials are conducted, and even after that the compound doesn’t need to be placed in the market, therefore it might take a decade to find a treatment or vaccine for SARS-CoV-2 infection.

This is why many have suggested a wider screening of already existing drugs to see if they might work. The scientist from United Kingdoms in British Journal of Pharmacy identified three stages of infection at which the coronavirus could be targeted: keeping the virus from entering our cells, preventing it from replicating inside the cells, and minimizing the damage that the virus does to the organs.

Once the virus is detected then anti-viral medications can be used for treatment and are easier to develop based on the symptoms, but prevention of disease is tricky and requires a much more detailed study, which is why it is possible.

Existing Anti-Viral Drugs

Remdesivir

It is an anti-viral developed to fight against Ebola in 2014 but failed, though it was safe for humans. There is some evidence that it’s effective on coronavirus, which is why Gilead, the maker of the drug, along with other researchers and in collaboration with different governments has been trying to start clinical trials on people. But even with six large studies in motion, there wasn’t a conclusive test, but still, people have used the drug to fight the virus. In early June, federal officials announced their supply of remdesivir will run out by the end of June. Gilead is ramping up production, but it’s unclear how much of the drug will be available this summer.

Favipiravir

This drug is used in many countries, except the United States, to treat Influenza. Some reports from China suggest that the drug might work for treating COVID 19 patients, but the results haven’t been published. But still, Japan has exported the drug to 43 nations for clinical trials for the treatment of severe and mild cases of COVID 19.

Arbidol

The drug was tested for the treatment of patients of COVID 19 along with lopinavir/ritonavir. But the drug failed when tested on hospitalized mild and severe cases of the virus.

Hydroxychloroquine and Chloroquine

The drug was issued as an emergency use authorization by the FDA in March for the treatment of COVID 19 patients. But the drug proved to be a fail which is why its authorization was revoked because the drug may cause serious health risks rather than treating the virus. In April FDA, issued a statement banning the use of Hydroxychloroquine and Chloroquine because of its serious and potentially life-threatening heart rhythm problems” connected with the drugs.

Other Treatments

Blood Plasma Transfers

The FDA has announced the start of an experimental trial of blood plasma transfer on patients recovered from COVID 19. The trials were based on the theory that plasma produces antibodies that would fight against the coronavirus, it is an old idea to give patient’s blood from patients who have recovered. The trials proved successful when 19 out of 25 patients in a hospital in Texas showed signs of improvement and, 11 out of those were released from the hospitals.

Immune Suppressants

Some cases of COVID 19 show the immune system going into overdrive because of which large amounts of small proteins called cytokines are released because which certain people might develop Acute Respiratory Distress Syndrome (ARDS) and require the assistance of a ventilator to breathe. For this, several immune suppressants are tested to control the activity of the immune system. The drugs being tested for this are baricitinib, CM4620-IE, and IL-6 inhibitors.

Vaccines

Vaccines protect the people from the virus before they’re even exposed to the virus. Vaccines train the immune system in such a way that it can identify the virus and kill it before it causes any damage to the body. The virus does not affect people who are vaccinated which is why vaccinated people can’t pass on the virus to others, which is known as herd immunity. 

Many have been continuously working to find a vaccine for COVID 19 virus and end this pandemic sooner than later. Here are some projects at work:

Moderna

This is one approach that can deliver vaccines faster than others, by using messenger RNA to make cells produce proteins that can boost immunity. The clinical trials of the vaccine have started in Seattle, Washington with 45 people and, it was a huge success which is why the FDA, in May, approved for Phase II of trials and they are ready for Phase III in July. FDA has also guaranteed that is the vaccine passes in Phase III they would fast track it’s regulatory review. But still the vaccine might take 18 months before it reaches the public and, production can be a huge issue once it’s approved.

Inovia

The company was already working on developing a vaccine against a different kind of coronavirus which helped them to quickly develop a vaccine for SARS-CoV-2. The company has already conducted its first round of clinical trials and is now preparing for Phase II/III in summer.

The University of Oxford in England

A clinical trial was conducted on 500 people and the results showed that 80% of the people are safe from the virus. The vaccine develops a special kind of virus to trigger the immune system. University partnered up with AstraZeneca, a pharmaceutical company to conduct its late-stage trials. Officials said that if the clinical trials are successful then they could provide 30 million by September.

Even though having so many programs to find a cure for COVID 19 involves the use of a lot of resources and time and, many might not even succeed. If you look at past attempts for making vaccines for other diseases, there is no guarantee that the tests would be successful. Therefore people need to understand that just because a vaccine test has started doesn’t mean that we would get a vaccine at the other end. These processes take time and several trials and review before it reaches the public.

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