There are a few medications that are under investigation as potential treatments for COVID-19. A couple of them look promising, especially an old anti-malarial drug called chloroquine and its cousin hydroxychloroquine, which is used on-label for Lupus. It’s starting to look like hydroxychloroquine and maybe chloroquine could be safe and scaleable treatments.
In cell cultures, they reduce the ability of SARS to get into cells, interfering with reproduction of the virus if it does get in. They are cheap, have a proven safety record, and manufacturing could be ramped up quickly because they are simple drugs. Here’s a study with the cell-culture In Vitro Results. The results are statistically significant and promising.
There’s also an In Vivo (human) case series study with promising results. Despite the study’s small sample size, the survey shows that hydroxychloroquine treatment is significantly associated with viral load reduction/disappearance in COVID-19 patients. Results were even better when combined with azithromycin (Zithromax). There are open trials going on for healthcare workers and contacts. Because these meds have been around for decades and have a good safety record- they could be scaled up and used fast off-label (plus they’re generic and cheap).
Another drug is a “nucleotide-analog” drug called remdesivir. It’s a med developed to treat Ebola and there’s some evidence that it works against other RNA viruses (the SARS CoV virus is an RNA virus and so is Ebola). Testing for Ebola showed that it was safe and it’s under trial now for SARS CoV. Results are expected in mid to late April.
Another drug called favipiravir which can be helpful with Influenza (also an RNA virus). That one works by interfering with making new RNA. That drug is also being tested for efficacy for SARS CoV too.
Interferons might also be a useful treatment. Those drugs promote a widespread antiviral reaction in infected cells including shutting down protein production and switching on RNA destroying enzymes. Again, this is under testing.
Finally, the SARS CoV virus tends to overstimulate some parts of the immune system- especially the inflammatory response. A drug called Actemra (tocilizumab) is an antibody that targets receptors on cell surfaces and clogs up the interleukin-6 receptors, slowing down a targeted immune response. This med is normally used to help with autoimmune diseases like Rheumatoid arthritis. In China, it was observed to improve outcomes among infected folks and China has approved the med for COVID-19 treatment.
Editorial Note: If researchers and scientists can find an existing medication that has been proven safe that can be used off-label to limit the progression of the illness it could be a game changer. I honestly believe one or more medications are out there that will work- we just need to fund the kind of research and researchers to find them, chloroquine and hydroxychloroquine and others might very well work.
If so, it could give policy makers an alternative to the dramatic and economically damaging social distancing measures currently underway.These interventions are having a profoundly negative impacts on the social determinants of health.