6 Emerging COVID-19 Treatment Options
We’ve come a long way from the early days of trying to treat the novel coronavirus (COVID-19) that literally changed the world overnight.
We know now that COVID-19 patients are best treated on their stomachs which improves oxygenation in the lungs, that the disease can affect the blood, and most notably, of course, we have a vaccine to prevent against severe impacts from infection.
But there are also some exciting new and emerging COVID-19 treatment options on the scene that deserve to be looked at as well--and some “popular” suggestions that should be skipped. If you’re wondering what the credible COVID-19 treatment options are, here’s what we know so far.
Remdesiver is an antiviral that’s been on the scene for some time and has been used effectively in the past on other viral infections, like malaria. Like most anti-virals, it has the best chance of working when administered early during an active infection, to stop the virus from replicating.
Remdesiver is authorized for use against COVID-19 under Emergency Use Authorization (EUA) by the Food and Drug Administration (FDA). However, remdesiver can only be administered in a hospital or other in-patient care setting, so it can be difficult to use to treat early on in the course of the infection. Additionally, there are conflicting studies about the true effectiveness of remdesiver against COVID-19. For instance, a 2021 study found that it may help reduce the length of hospital stay, but does not improve chances of survival. Another 2020 study found similar results: the drug helped shorten hospital stays, but was also associated with 131 “serious adverse” effects in the 531 patients who took it.
As opposed to remdesiver, Molnupiravir looks like the more promising antiviral to treat COVID-19. This drug is an oral antiviral sold by Merck that showed promise for both being cheap, easily accessible (you can get it right at a normal pharmacy and you can take it at home), and effective. The medication works by introducing errors into the genetic code of the virus, which stops it from being able to successfully replicate. One clinical trial showed it reduced the risk of hospitalization and death from COVID when given to patients who were high-risk early on in their infection.
On Thursday, Nov. 4th, the United Kingdom became the first country to officially authorize molnupiravir as a treatment for COVID-19. Britain ordered enough of the drug for 480,000 people, while the U.S. has already placed a pre-order for the treatment of 1.7 million individuals, costing the government about $700/person. It is expected that the FDA will authorize the drug in the U.S. as well, following an FDA advisory panel meeting later in November. Molnupiravir could be accessible to the U.S. as early as December.
In order for the drug to be the most effective, it’s recommended that you start taking it within 5 days of the onset of your symptoms and full treatment is 40 pills over the course of 5 days. Breastfeeding and pregnant women should not take the drug and in fact, it’s recommended that women who could become pregnant take contraceptives while on the drug and for four days after.
Pfizer also has its own COVID antiviral in the works. Dubbed PF-07321332, Pfizer’s version is a protease inhibitor, meaning it inhibits a protease enzyme that the virus needs to replicate. The company is currently testing both an oral and IV version of the medication and the oral version is now in Phase 2 of 3 of clinical trials.
Like the other antivirals, Pfizer’s is meant to be given only with confirmed COVID-19 cases and early on in the infection process. Britain has already ordered enough treatment of the Pfizer anti-viral for 250,000 people.
In February 2021, the FDA revised its EUA for convalescent plasma. Now, high-titer convalescent plasma is only authorized under EUA for high-risk, hospitalized patients with COVID-19.
This was based on findings from the National Institutes of Health’s clinical trial, which found that administering the plasma (containing antibodies from survivors of COVID-19) did not help improve outcomes in patients who were not hospitalized.
Monoclonal antibody treatments
As opposed to convalescent plasma--which uses real blood products containing antibodies from survivors of COVID-19--monoclonal antibody treatments are lab-manufactured antibodies that are then infused into someone who’s already infected with COVID-19. They can be used out-patient and have shown some degree of effectiveness, especially when given on in the course of infection and for those who are at high-risk.
The FDA has issued EUA for REGEN-COV, a monoclonal antibody product, for people over 12 who weigh at least 40 kg. The U.S. government also has an official website detailing more about the treatment, along with infusion treatment centers.
With the ongoing development of treatment options to treat COVID-19, including Merck’s antiviral pill and Pfizer developing another treatment option, there is increasing hope that medicine is finally getting a grasp on the novel coronavirus.
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