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Researchers Find Existing Medications That Could Speed Recovery of COVID-19 Patients

By HospiMedica International staff writers
Posted on 19 Oct 2020
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Researchers who combed through a “library” of previously approved drugs believe they have identified a medication with the potential to help speed a COVID-19 patient’s recovery from SARS-CoV-2 infection.

Researchers at the University of New Mexico (UNM Albuquerque, NM, USA) have reported that an older anti-malarial drug called amodiaquine was effective in eradicating the SARS-CoV-2 virus in test tube experiments. Amodiaquine was one of three promising candidates identified in a process that entailed studying the molecular characteristics of about 4,000 drugs approved for human use by the US Food and Drug Administration (FDA) and other agencies. The researchers hoped to find drugs that would target known vulnerabilities in the SARS-CoV-2 virus.

The other two drugs - an anti-psychotic called zuclophentixol and a blood pressure medication called nebivolol - also cleared the virus in the experiments. Amodiaquine, first made in 1948, is on the World Health Organization’s List of Essential Medicines. It has a good safety profile and is widely used in Africa to treat malaria. Zuclophentixol has been used to treat schizophrenia since the 1970s, while nebivolol has been used for hypertension since the late 1990s.

The researchers believe that any of these three drugs could be combined with Gilead Sciences’ (Foster City, CA, USA) antiviral drug remdesivir or a related antiviral drug called favipiravir to mount a more potent attack on the SARS-CoV-2 virus. Remdesivir is a relatively new antiviral medication that has been shown to shorten hospital stays for those recovering from the novel coronavirus. Combining two drugs could mean that lower doses of each could be administered, lessening the likelihood of adverse reactions. Administering two drugs also makes it less likely that the virus would develop a mutation rendering it immune from the treatment. Since many compounds that show antiviral activity in a laboratory setting do not have the same effect in living organisms, the researchers’ next step will be to mount clinical trials to see whether the medications work in COVID-positive patients.

“The gist of it is we think we found a drug that is on par with remdesivir and is much cheaper,” said Tudor Oprea, MD, PhD, professor of Medicine and Pharmaceutical Sciences and chief of the UNM Division of Translational Informatics. “Instead of having one hammer, you have two hammers, which is more effective. We’re trying to give the scientific community two hammers instead of one.”

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University of New Mexico
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