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Unlike some of its competitors, Johnson & Johnson’s vaccine does not need to be frozen and...Unlike some of its competitors, Johnson & Johnson’s vaccine does not need to be frozen and may require just one shot instead of two.
Drugs that prevent and treat the coronavirus are critical to stemming the pandemic. Here are the most promising treatments that could be ready by the fall.
Drugmakers are racing to find effective treatments and vaccines to mitigate the effects of the coronavirus...Drugmakers are racing to find effective treatments and vaccines to mitigate the effects of the coronavirus pandemic. While early vaccine research has been promising, in the absence of a highly effective vaccine, additional medications are needed to prevent and treat the virus. Among those in the works are antivirals, as well as treatments that harness the body's immune system to go after the virus. Repurposed drugs like remdesivir have already been cleared for emergency use, while others like Regeneron's antibody treatment are looking to be available by the fall. For more stories like this, sign up here for our healthcare newsletter, Dispensed. Drugmakers are racing to mitigate the impact of the coronavirus pandemic. As part of that, researchers are developing vaccines to prevent infections and repurposing existing medications to treat people with COVID-19, the disease caused by the novel coronavirus. Drug developers are also working on treatments to help fight the virus itself. While early vaccine results have been promising, in the absence of a highly effective vaccine, treatments that help people who get infected with the novel coronavirus will be key. For instance, influenza vaccine effectiveness can range from year to year, from relatively low effectiveness like 19% effective for the 2014-15 season to as much as 60% effectiveness in the 2010-11 season. When combating the flu, treatments like Tamiflu can be used to lessen symptoms and sometime act as a preventive measure. One repurposed medication aimed at treating coronavirus infections has already been approved for emergency use. Others, too, have proven useful in combating some of the severe symptoms brought on by COVID-19 that have led to tens of thousands of hospitalizations. A slate of newly created medications are also currently being tested, and some could be approved as soon as this fall. Read more: Drugmakers are racing to use existing medicines to fight the coronavirus. Here's what you need to know about the 14 most promising medications being put to the test. Drugmakers are repurposing antiviral drugs to treat COVID-19, and one has already been given emergency authorization Antivirals work by targeting the virus to keep it from replicating in the body, bringing on more symptoms. Antivirals are used to treat the flu, as well HIV. So far, one has been given emergency authorization: Gilead Sciences' remdesivir. Study results have shown that the drug helped hospitalized patients with COVID-19 recover faster than those receiving a placebo. The Food and Drug Administration on May 1 issued an emergency authorization for the drug's use. Remdesivir isn't the only repurposed antiviral being tested to treat COVID-19. Another is Avigan, an influenza treatment and broad-spectrum antiviral drug made by Fujifilm Toyama Chemical. It's not approved in the US. The drug has been approved for use in COVID-19 in Russia and India, but plans for its approval in Japan by May fell short because there wasn't enough evidence of how well it worked in treating the disease. Read more: Gilead built a biotech colossus by treating viruses like HIV and hepatitis C. Now, it stands to make billions from the first effective coronavirus treatment. Drugmakers are looking to have newly created drugs that prompt the body to fight the virus available by the fall Researchers are also exploring an approach that uses the body's immune reaction to viruses to lessen symptoms and potentially prevent people from getting sick in the first place. The approach uses the body's own disease-fighting proteins, called antibodies, as the basis for drugs. The hope with these treatments is to infuse the body with antibodies to fight the novel coronavirus, helping the body mount a better immune response. Trials are ongoing from drugmakers Regeneron, Eli Lilly, and Celltrion to see if the treatments work both to stave off infection as well as to treat COVID-19 patients with moderate or severe illness. Regeneron and Lilly are expecting results that make it clear whether or not the drugs work as soon as the fall. Read more: An antibody treatment might be our best shot at stopping the coronavirus if a vaccine doesn't work out. Here are the 9 leading programs, including 2 that are aiming to be ready this fall. Treatments based on plasma offer another solution One approach to treating coronavirus infections that's already in use is convalescent plasma. That uses the blood of those who have recovered from the illness — specifically the antibodies they produced — to fight the virus. It's a treatment has been around for decades. Trials testing the benefit of convalescent plasma in COVID-19 are ongoing, with some early results suggesting some benefit. Using convalescent plasma is constrained by blood donations. Drugmakers are also looking to make treatments based on more purified forms of plasma that can be used more widely. The product, known as hyperimmune globulin, is made when scientists purify the plasma to focus on a specific type of antibody called IgG. Takeda, Japan's largest pharmaceutical company, is working with a coalition of 10 drugmakers to develop the treatment. An international trial of hyperimmune globulin is expected to start in July and wrap up in the fall, with the hopes of getting approval by the end of 2020. Read more: Doctors are using the blood of coronavirus survivors to treat patients with the disease. Now, drugmakers are betting they can turn that into a drug.Join the conversation about this story » NOW WATCH: We tested a machine that brews beer at the push of a button
Coronavirus researchers are crafting drug cocktails with Gilead's antiviral remdesivir, tapping the HIV playbook to fight the coronavirus
With the antiviral drug remdesivir showing modest benefits for COVID-19 patients, scientists are already plotting how...With the antiviral drug remdesivir showing modest benefits for COVID-19 patients, scientists are already plotting how to rapidly build on this progress. On its own, remdesivir is unlikely to be a game-changer in treating the coronavirus, researchers said. But finding the right drugs to combine it with could produce a much more potent therapy. It is likely to spur a flurry of combination trials that test remdesivir plus additional experimental drugs, leading COVID-19 researchers and physicians said. This mirrors the approach used for HIV, where the first drugs showed modest benefits. It took years of testing combinations to find cocktails of two or three drugs that knocked out the virus. There's optimism this testing will happen more quickly than HIV, with many therapeutic candidates already identified. Biomedical breakthroughs have built an understanding of the virus in record time, as shown by research published Thursday by a group of more than 100 scientists. Visit Business Insider's homepage for more stories. Researchers are already plotting how to build on top of the first effective coronavirus treatment. The key will be crafting the right cocktail of medications, testing additional drugs in combination with the antiviral remdesivir, COVID-19 researchers told Business Insider. This will likely lead to an explosion in combination trials testing Gilead's treatment in addition to experimental drugs to see if any boosts the benefits. HIV and cancer research have both followed a similar path, providing lessons to guide speedy COVID-19 work. Hospitalized COVID-19 patients recovered 31% faster when taking remdesivir instead of a placebo, according to preliminary study results released Wednesday by the US National Institutes of Health. Unlike the majority of early coronavirus studies, this trial's design was high quality, with data from more than 1,000 patients randomized to receive either Gilead's drug or a placebo. That 31% benefit is significant, said Dr. Jeffrey Gold, the chancellor of the University of Nebrasksa's Medical Center, one of the first hospitals to start testing remdesivir. Remdesivir's use should help free up hospital beds, intensive care units, and ventilators as patients recover faster on the drug. But the real advantage will be its potential to serve as a backbone in combination studies, Gold said. "It's a very healthy starting point," Gold said. "It opens the door to multiple combination therapies working in different ways to attack the pandemic, which will hopefully be accelerated." Read more: A failed Ebola drug is now the frontrunner to be the first effective coronavirus treatment. Here's everything you need to know about Gilead's remdesivir. Combination therapies were the true game-changers in fighting HIV The first medications for HIV were single drugs with modest benefits. The real breakthroughs came after years of testing combinations of these drugs, when three-drug cocktails led to dramatic improvements in patients. "We know clearly, as instructed by the global experience in HIV, that combination therapies often have advantages compared to single-drug therapy," Dr. Andrew Badley, director of the Mayo Clinic's HIV Immunology Laboratory, said in an interview. It won't be long before researchers start launching trials testing additional therapies on top of remdesivir, he said. "Those are critical trials, and I think will be coming in the relatively near term," said Badley, who chairs Mayo's COVID-19 research task force. At least one such trial is about to start. Remdesivir will be tested in combination with an arthritis drug The NIH's trial will soon start testing a combination therapy, said Dr. Taison Bell, an assistant professor of medicine and infectious disease at the University of Virginia, where he is a principal investigator for this study. Potentially as soon as next week, patients in the NIH study will all receive remdesivir. They will also be randomized to receive either a placebo or an arthritis drug called Olumiant, Bell said. Olumiant, made by Eli Lilly, works by interfering with the inflammatory response of the immune system. This could help patients suffering from severe cases of COVID-19, which are often marked by their immune systems overreacting. The NIH confirmed they are testing Olumiant, but declined to provide specifics on the design. The agency said details would be shared in a future announcement. Gilead outlined this trial design Thursday on an earnings call, saying the positive trial results for remdesivir will change how COVID-19 drug research is done. "This now changes the landscape of drug development within COVID-19, being one now has to think about comparing to remdesivir and/or adding to remdesivir," said CEO Daniel O'Day. The two drugs work in different ways. Remdesivir is focused on stopping the virus, while Olumiant may help alleviate some of the worst symptoms that patients suffer. Bell said he is most excited about combination trials where each of the drugs can treat distinct phases of the disease. "Looking at an agent that tries to attack the virus replication, and then an agent that targets the immune system response when it goes out of whack, looks like that would be the ideal combination for people with severe disease," Bell said. There's already a deep bench of drugs to test Finding the best HIV combinations took years and hundreds, if not thousands of trials, Badley said. But he is optimistic coronavirus research will progress much faster, given recent breakthroughs in biomedical capabilities. One research project published Thursday in the journal Nature maps a blueprint of how the coronavirus works. An international team of more than 100 researchers identified the dozens of proteins critical to the coronavirus and the hundreds of proteins in humans it needs to grow and replicate. Then, they found existing drugs that could inhibit these human proteins, hoping that could prevent the virus from growing in cells. They identified 10 drugs that showed strong ability to inhibit the virus when tested in monkey cells. It's an eclectic group of compounds, including antihistamines, antipsychotics, and even cancer treatments. Read more: Here's how 13 top drugmakers are sprinting to develop a coronavirus vaccine or treatment that can halt this pandemic Nevan Krogan, a leader of the project and a biologist at the University of California, San Francisco, said he sees the future of COVID-19 research in "adding multiple drugs like a cocktail." "We are excited to be testing our drugs and compounds in combination with each other as well as other antivirals such as remdesivir," Krogan said. These drugs hold particular potential to work with remdesivir, since they have different targets that aren't covered by Gilead's drug, said UCSF chemist Kevan Shokat, another author of the research. "In that way, we hit multiple aspects of the viral life cycle all at once," Shokat said. Mayo's Badley said research like this project has identified dozens of drugs that can be repurposed against the coronavirus. It gives him hope the timeline for breakthroughs will be much quicker than HIV. "The fact that those publications exist is a testament to where we are with biomedical science today," he said. "We were not in a similar place when HIV came along." "I am personally very optimistic that within weeks to months, we will begin to get significant signals of activity of some of these agents as therapies of COVID," he added.Join the conversation about this story » NOW WATCH: 4 potential coronavirus treatments that researchers are working on right now