“A gift from God”~Says US President Donald Trump
US regulator USFDA approves limited use of malaria drugs for coronavirus
On 30th March two antimalarial drugs were given A limited emergency-use authorisation by the US Food and Drug Administration to treat coronavirus patients. The drugs were told to be game changers by US President Donald Trump.
Chloroquine and Hydroxychloroquine are both being probed as potential COVID-19 treatments. Regulatory body has asked the drugs to be distributed and prescribed by doctors to hospitalized teen and adult patients with Covid-19, as appropriate, when a clinical trial is not available or feasible.
Trump addressed the two drugs as “gift from God,” even after the researchers warning against the dangers of unproven treatments
Some fear that Trump’s endorsement of the medicines could create shortages for patients who need them to treat lupus and rheumatoid arthritis, diseases for which they are approved.
What are Chloroquine and Hydroxychloroquine?
These are both antimalarial drugs that have been in use for a long time. Chloroquine was originally developed in 1934 by the pharmaceutical company Bayer and used in World War II to prevent malaria.
Hydroxychloroquine (HCQ), sold under the brand name Plaquenil among others, is a medication used to prevent and treat malaria in areas where malaria remains sensitive to chloroquine
Both of the drugs are on the World Health Organization’s List of Essential Medicines, the safest and most effective medicines needed in a health system
Why do everyone think this drug might work?
MERS (Middle East respiratory syndrome-related coronavirus) was identified in 2012, On conducting random screens of thousands of drugs against the MERS infection several drugs which included chloroquine, showed the ability to block coronaviruses from infecting cells in vitro. But the drugs were not pursued thoroughly.
When the new coronavirus outbreak began, drugs that had shown some initial results against the related coronaviruses MERS were considered as worthy of further evaluation as possible treatments
So the science is very real, and a number of researchers around the world are now investigating these drugs and testing them in clinical trials but so far, there is no consensus about whether the drugs are safe and effective for treating COVID-19.
Why would these antimalarial drugs work?
It is still not clear how these drugs would work against COVID-19. Malaria is caused by Plasmodium parasites that are spread by mosquitoes, whereas COVID-19 is caused by the SARS-CoV-2 virus.Since viral and parasitic infections are very different one may not expect it to work but
- It has been suggested that the malaria drug chloroquine can change the acidity at the surface of the cell, thereby preventing the virus from infecting it.
- It’s also possible chloroquine helps activate the immune response.
- One study also tested hydroxychloroquine in combination with an antibacterial drug (azithromycin), which worked better to stop the spread of the infection than hydroxychloroquine alone.
What are the side effects of these drugs?
Side effects of the drugs include blurred vision, nausea, vomiting, abdominal cramps, headache, diarrhea, swelling legs/ankles, shortness of breath, pale lips/nails/skin, muscle weakness, easy bruising/bleeding, hearing and mental problems
Tracking development of new treatments and vaccines for COVID-19,Research-Testing-Commercial release.
- Gilead Sciences (California)
Gildea has been working on Remdesivir, an anti-viral that’s shown promising results in lab and animal studies against SARS, MERS, Ebola and other infectious diseases, including COVID-19.
World Health Organization adescribed remdesivir as the “most promising candidate” against COVID-19
Status: Large-scale human testing
- Johnson & Johnson
A company that requires no introduction.J&J has partnered with the Biomedical Advanced Research and Development Authority and has signed a $450 Million Coronavirus Vaccine Contract With The US for leading the vaccine for COVID-19
Status: Investigation and development
- Moderna (Cambridge)
Moderna has developed a potential mRNA vaccine against COVID-19. The vaccine was developed in collaboration with scientists at the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases. The vaccine works by getting the immune system to develop antibodies against a “spike protein” found on the virus.
Status: Human Testing
- Eli Lilly (Indiana)
Eli Lilly announced that it is partnering with Vancouver-based biotech firm AbCellera to co-develop antibody-based treatments against COVID-19.
Status: Screening antibody candidates to move to testing phase
- AbbVie (North Chicago)
AbbVie manufactures the co-formulation lopinavir/ritonavir, which is used to treat HIV. It’s currently collaborating with health authorities to see if it can be used as a treatment against COVID-19, based on unconfirmed reports in China that its use was helpful in combating it
Status: Investigation and development
- Pfizer (New York)
Pfizer announced that it had discovered several promising antiviral molecules that stop the SARS-CoV-2 virus from reproducing in cells in the lab. The candidates are currently being screened to identify the best candidates to move into the development pipeline.
Status: In development
- GSK (London)
GSK has previously developed a pandemic vaccine adjuvant platform, a system that helps to improve vaccines by strengthening the immune response in patients who receive it. In February, the company announced it was partnering with the Coalition for Epidemic Preparedness Innovations (CEPI) to use that platform to improve potential vaccines to the new coronavirus.
Status: Vaccines in early testing
- Regeneron Pharmaceuticals (New York)
The company announced it has developed an antibody “cocktail” that might have therapeutic potential against the disease
Status: In development
- Inovio Pharmaceuticals (Pennsylvania)
The company has previously developed a vaccine for MERS that’s in the testing phase. It’s also been awarded a $5 million grant to scale up the smart device it plans to use for the delivery of the vaccine.
Status: Under Development
- Vir Biotechnology (San Francisco)
The company has identified antibodies from people who recovered from SARS, and is studying to see if they might be active against the new coronavirus, as the two are very similar.
Status: Early stage