The Move to Repurpose Drugs to Treat the Novel Coronavirus: Status

The Move to Repurpose Drugs to Treat the Novel Coronavirus: Status

NBC News recently reported that along with the big push for new COVID-19 vaccines, there are a number of initiatives around the globe to repurpose existing drugs to potentially treat the coronavirus. Although the quest for a novel cure or vaccine will intensify, this will take time and effort. In the meantime, as a pandemic intensifies, the need for action is now. Hence older drugs are being explored by drug companies and researchers around the globe.

Thanks to the concise and crisp reporting of Ms. Emily Siegel,—assistant producer, NBC News Investigative Unit—TrialSite News summarizes the report and encourages readers to visit the NBC News video interview of Roche’s Karsten Kleine.

Actemra & Rheumatoid Arthritis Drugs

In China, doctors report that they are using anti-inflammation drugs to curb coronavirus effects on critical patients. The drug called Tocilizumab, is sold under the name Actemra and is produced by Roche, a Swiss pharmaceutical giant that also owns Silicon Valley-based Genentech. Chinese doctors are using Tocilizumab to prevent “overreaction of the immune system that has led to organ failure and death in coronavirus patients.”  NBC’s Ms. Emily R. Siegel reports that the drug has been involved with a Chinese clinical trial involving 20 severe COVID-19 cases. 19 of them were discharged from the hospital within two weeks. This drug is now approved in China for COVID-19 cases, but not America. Karsten Kleine (Roche) reported to NBC News that the company is talking with the FDA about Actemra (tocilizumab) use for those severely ill with COVID-19.

As TrialSite News reported the other day, Sanofi and Regeneron are commencing a clinical trial involving the RA drug Kevzara for severe COVID-19 cases.

HIV Drugs

AbbVie is working with health authorities (FDA, CDC and European agencies) to assess Kaltera/Aluvia in clinical trials for COVID-19 patients. NBC reported that there were reports in China that this drug exhibited some success, but cannot be verified.

Malaria Drugs

Sanofi is now assessing its malaria drug hydroxychloroquine for the management of coronavirus. As reported by TrialSite News, there are reports in China and elsewhere of the potential benefits of this anti-malaria drug.  NBC reports that some health authorities are allowing use of chloroquine use for the management of COVID-19. At present, there is not enough data to make conclusions reports Ms. Siegel. Sanofi seeks to partner with health authorities to investigate the use of hydroxychloroquine for management of coronavirus.

Gilead’s Remdesivir

Remdesivir—an anti-viral medication developed by Gilead Sciences as a treatment for Ebola which evidenced success in the testing of monkeys infected with MERs, a different coronavirus. Remdesivir is now being actively tested in clinical trials centering on COVID-19 in both the United States and China. 

The Remdesivir study in the U.S., led by University of Nebraska Medical Center, involves 20 sites recruiting patients including the Emory Vaccine Center and the University of Washington Virology Research Clinic.