Identifying a treatment for the novel coronavirus is perhaps the most vital scientific problem of the moment. While vaccines could bring an end to the pandemic, none is likely to be widely available for a year or more. Therapeutics offer the possibility of a shorter-term answer; one that could reduce the frightening death toll.
Status: In human trials, with some data expected in April.
Remdesivir, a drug designed by
(ticker: GILD) to treat Ebola, is a type of antiviral called a nucleotide analog. The drug has drawn substantial interest as a possible Covid-19 treatment, so much so that the company had to stop accepting requests for emergency access to it from Covid-19 patients. Remdesivir is currently the subject of at least seven clinical trials in Covid-19 patients, according to the Milken Institute. Clinical data from two Phase 3 trials of the drug are expected in April. If it is proven safe and effective, challenges remain: Remdesivir is delivered intravenously, which means it will likely only be used for severe cases of the disease.
Chloroquine and Hydroxychloroquine
Status: In human trials. The FDA has issued an Emergency Use Authorization to allow it to be used in certain Covid-19 patients.
These closely-related antimalaria drugs have emerged as the most controversial potential Covid-19 treatments. Data supporting the efficacy of the drugs remains thin. As recently as last Tuesday, an FDA official cautioned that the agency needs to “ask, in a judicious way, what are the data that support this particular intervention.” But interest in the drugs has been tremendous, in part due to President Donald Trump’s touting of hydroxychloroquine’s potential in speeches and on
The FDA said March 30 that it had put out an Emergency Use Authorization allowing hydroxychloroquine sulfate and chloroquine phosphate from the Strategic National Stockpile to be used in teen and adult patients hospitalized with Covid-19. Meanwhile, the drugs are the subject of dozens of clinical trials, often in combination with other medications.
Status: In human trials.
Kevzara, an arthritis drug sold by
(REGN), is being tested in two separate Phase 2/3 trials in hospitalized patients with severe Covid-19. The drug, a so-called IL-6 inhibitor, may be able to tamp down inflammation in the lungs that, in serious Covid-19 cases, can lead to death.
Status: In human trials. Chinese health officials recommend its use in some Covid-19 patients.
Actemra is a
(RHBBY) arthritis drug that, like Kevzara, is an IL-6 inhibitor. Like Kevzara, it is being studied for its potential to manage Covid-19 side effects in patients who develop pneumonia. China’s National Health Commission includes Actemra in its recommended Covid-19 treatment plan for patients with pneumonia.
Status: In human trials.
Kaletra, an HIV drug sold by
(ABBV), returned disappointing results in a Covid-19 trial in mid-March, but more trials are ongoing. The drug is a combination of two antivirals, called lopinavir and ritonavir, and first received FDA approval as an HIV treatment in 2000. AbbVie has decided not to enforce its patent on the drug, according to the Financial Times.
Regeneron antibody program
Status: Could start human trials by early this summer.
When the immune system conquers a virus, it creates proteins called antibodies that can identify and neutralize that virus if it turns up again. Various companies are working on identifying antibodies that can neutralize the virus that causes Covid-19, and turning those antibodies into a drug. Regeneron has identified hundreds of relevant antibodies from genetically modified mice, and from humans who have recovered from Covid-19. The company used the same technique to develop an Ebola drug. It says it will pick two of the antibodies to test as a cocktail treatment. It plans to begin manufacturing in April, and to start clinical trials by early in the summer.
Vir Biotechnology antibody program
Status: Human trials expected to begin in three to five months.
(VIR) is working on a Covid-19 antibody therapy with
(BIIB) and the Chinese firm WuXi Biologics. The company says the antibody it has identified can neutralize the virus that causes Covid-19 in tests in the lab. Biogen has signed on to help develop and manufacture the antibody, as has WuXi. Vir said on March 25 it expected human trials to begin within three to five months.
Vir Biotech siRNA program
Vir is also working with the biotech firm
(ALNY) to develop Covid-10 drugs that use a technique known as RNA interference to go after the virus. The drug would use molecules called small interfering RNA that could potentially stop messenger RNA molecules from carrying instructions to make disease-causing proteins. Alnylam has synthesized hundreds of siRNA molecules targeting the genomes of the virus that causes Covid-19; Vir will now evaluate those molecules in the lab to select one to test.
Write to Josh Nathan-Kazis at email@example.com