Covid-19: Scientists identify 21 existing drugs with potential to stop replication of novel coronavirus

Hemani Sheth Mumbai | Updated on July 27, 2020 Published on July 26, 2020

Health worker collects a swab sample of a man at a government fever hospital of Covid-19 free testing centre in Hyderabad.   -  The Hindu

A Nature study by a global team of scientists has identified 21 drugs that can help stop the replication of the novel coronavirus that has caused the Covid-19 pandemic.

The study was led by Sumit Chanda, Ph.D., professor at Sanford Burnham Prebys Medical Discovery Institute.

The team of scientists have identified 21 such existing drugs that can stop SARS-CoV-2, the virus that causes Covid-19 from replicating by screening a large collection of drugs.

Study and findings

The study reported 100 molecules with confirmed antiviral activity in laboratory tests. 21 drugs were determined to be effective if administered in safe concentrations. Four of these compounds were found to work in a similar manner as Gilead’s remdesivir, a current standard-of-care treatment for COVID-19.

“Remdesivir has proven successful at shortening the recovery time for patients in the hospital, but the drug doesn't work for everyone who receives it. That’s not good enough,” says Chanda. “As infection rates continue to rise in America and around the world, the urgency remains to find affordable, effective, and readily available drugs that can complement the use of remdesivir, as well as drugs that could be given prophylactically or at the first sign of infection on an outpatient basis.”

Out of these 21 drugs, “13 have previously entered clinical trials for other indications and are effective at concentrations, or doses, that could potentially be safely achieved in COVID-19 patients. Two are already FDA approved: astemizole (allergies), clofazamine (leprosy), and remdesivir has received Emergency Use Authorization from the agency (COVID-19). Four worked synergistically with remdesivir, including the chloroquine derivative hanfangchin A (tetrandrine), an antimalarial drug that has reached Phase 3 clinical trials,” the report said.

“This study significantly expands the possible therapeutic options for COVID-19 patients, especially since many of the molecules already have clinical safety data in humans,” said Chanda.

These 21 compounds are currently being tested in animal models and “mini lungs,” or lung organoids, that mimic human tissue.

The team will approach the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) to discuss a clinical trial(s) evaluating the drugs as treatments for COVID-19 if the study proves effective and the results are favourable.

“Based on our current analysis, clofazimine, hanfangchin A, apilimod and ONO 5334 represent the best near-term options for an effective COVID-19 treatment,” Chanda said. “While some of these drugs are currently in clinical trials for COVID-19, we believe it’s important to pursue additional drug candidates so we have multiple therapeutic options if SARS-CoV-2 becomes drug resistant.”

The drugs were identified by thoroughly screening over 12,000 drugs from the ReFRAME drug repurposing collection approved by the FDA. ReFRAME created by the drug discovery division of Scripps Research, Calibr with support from the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation has a collection of drugs for other diseases or that have been tested extensively for human safety.

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Published on July 26, 2020
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