Quest for a drug to combat coronavirus

PHYSICIANS ACROSS THE GLOBE ARE RUNNING TRIALS ON DRUG TREATMENTS REPURPOSED FROM OTHER DISEASES — FROM EBOLA TO MALARIA TO ARTHRITIS — IN A RACE TO OFFER HOPE TO COVID-19 PATIENTS.

Scientists are investigating three main types of medications in their quest to stop the pandemic. The first category includes antivirals to stop the virus from replicating. Treatments include the HIV drug combination Kaletra, which U.S. biotech AbbVie recently waived its patents on so it can be made available as a generic. Other therapies include the antimalarial drug chloroquine and an anti-flu drug from Japan’s Fujifilm.

Gilead Sciences’ Ebola drug, remdesivir, is also being repurposed to see if it can effectively treat COVID-19.

Second are anti-inflammatories that treat the lungs after the immune system is overwhelmed. Regeneron and Sanofi have partnered on Kevzara, while Roche has started a trial on Actemra, approved for use on rheumatoid arthritis in 100 countries.

The third category is antibody-based treatments, derived from recovered Covid-19 patients. Eli Lilly and Canadian start-up AbCellera are developing an antibody-based treatment, while Japan’s Takeda is developing a new drug derived from the blood plasma of others who have survived the virus.

Researchers at the University of Minnesota have launched clinical trials using the generic blood-pressure medication losartan.

In Australia, the bacillus Calmette-Guerin — or BCG vaccine which has been used for a century to prevent tuberculosis — is being given to 4,000 health-care workers in Melbourne to see if it will protect them against the coronavirus. Similar research is going on in the Netherlands, according to the EU Clinical Trials Register.

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