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Promising Treatments in the COVID-19 Battle

By Kevin Brown

When COVID-19 appeared in early 2020, much of the media attention focused on treatment medications. There was a great deal of debate about which treatments were most effective while some were labeled as controversial or fraudulent. The debut of the COVID-19 vaccines in late 2020 eclipsed the once dominant news about treatments. However, there continues to be a great deal of activity around the development of new and promising treatments.

Early on in the pandemic, the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) formed the Coronavirus Treatment Acceleration Program (CTAP) to work directly with federal health partners, academia and industry in the development of effective treatments for the virus. The goal of CTAP was “to move new treatments to patients as soon as possible, while at the same time finding out whether they are helpful or harmful,” according to the FDA. The role of the FDA is not to conduct the studies, but to review the study designs and advise researchers. By April 2020, 72 clinical trials of potential therapies for COVID-19 were underway with FDA oversight. 1

The New York Times (NYT) follows COVID-19 treatments in their “Coronavirus Drug and Treatment Tracker” available online at www.nytimes.com.2 According to the NYT, only one drug, remdesivir, has been approved by the FDA for use in treatment of COVID-19. Other treatments have been granted emergency use authorization by the FDA. While there are many promising therapies under study, many are in early stages of research.

Treatments are categorized in the NYT Tracker as one of the following: antiviral, immunological, anti-inflammatory, other treatments, and pseudoscience and fraud.

Antivirals work by stopping the virus from affecting our cells. Remdesivir is the most well-known of the COVID-19 antivirals currently in use. Others include favipiravir (also known as Avigan), molnupiravir, recombinant ACE-2, ivermectin, oleandrin, lopinavir and ritonavir, hydroxychloroquine and chloroquine.

Immunologicals mimic the body’s immune system to help fight infection. Included in the NYT Tracker as immunologicals are convalescent plasma, monoclonal antibodies, bamlanivimab, etesevimab, REGEN-COV, and interferons.

Anti-inflammatories fight inflammation in the body. A hallmark of COVID-19 is that it can cause insurmountable inflammatory damage, particularly to the lungs. Among the anti-inflammatories in the NYT Tracker are dexamethasone and other corticosteroids, cytokine Inhibitors, blood filtration systems, stem cells, colchicine, and azithromycin.

Other treatments include prone positioning, ventilators and other respiratory support devices, anticoagulants, and vitamin and mineral supplements.

Those treatments labeled as pseudoscience or fraudulent are drinking or injecting bleach and disinfectants, ultraviolet light, and silver. The FDA maintains a list of more than 140 fraudulent COVID-19 products, according to the NYT.

Many new and promising treatments for COVID-19 are being developed and studied across the United States and in other countries. It is certainly hoped that, with the use of new treatments coupled with vaccinations and continued public health measures, we will soon see the end of the pandemic once and for all.

1 U.S. Food and Drug Administration, “The Path Forward: Coronavirus Treatment Acceleration Program”.  Stephen M. Hahn, M.D., Commissioner of Food and Drugs, Peter Marks, M.D., Ph.D., Director, Center for Biologics Evaluation and Research and Janet Woodcock, M.D., Director, Center for Drug Evaluation and Research, April 2020, www.fda.gov/news-events.

2 New York Times, “Corona Virus Drug and Treatment Tracker”, Katherine J. Wu, Carl Zimmer and Jonathan Corum, Updated April 13, 2021, www.nytimes.com.

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