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Remdesivir, Favipiravir, and other names that we find hard to pronounce have become part of news reports. Also, sadly, many of us have had to take these medicines and hence have found out about them directly from hospitals.

Antivirals are drugs that treat viral infections. Some of these aim at killing particular viruses, while some function against several viruses. These drugs work by either preventing the virus from entering host cells, or replicating, or releasing viral particles that infect other cells.


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As part of the COVID-19 treatment, many companies are working on antiviral drugs, some of which have already been in use against other illnesses. Some of these are cleared for use by organizations like the FDA, while others are still being tested.

The Tech Panda put together a list of antivirals out there, which are trying to win the battle against the Coronavirus.

Remdesivir

This drug, brand name Veklury, is the first to be approved by FDA as a treatment for COVID-19. It´s story begins about ten years back, when it was developed and then failed in clinical trials against Ebola in 2014. Still, it was found to be safe to use.

Research with Middle East Respiratory Syndrome (MERS), a cousin disease of Coronavirus, revealed that the drug was able to stop the virus from replicating.

Last October, the New England Journal of Medicine published a phase three trial results that showed that Remdesivir shortened the hospital stay of COVID-19 patients by around five days. Those administered also developed a lower risk of death.

That´s how Remdesivir got FDA approval in October to be used as a COVID-19 treatment for adults as well as children of 12 years and older. The drug is the first approved by the agency as a treatment for COVID-19.

All is not hunky dory with the drug though. Not all clinical trials have found Remdesivir successful.

The Lancet published a study in April 2020 that showed that clinical trial participants taking Remdesivir didn’t gain any benefits in comparison to placebo takers. Also, a World Health Organization trial preliminary results found the drug didn’t have enough impact on the length of hospital stays or risk of dying.

However, several COVID-19 clinical trials globally are testing Remdesivir, at times in combination with other drugs, for example, interferon beta-1a and a highly concentrated solution of antibodies.

Pharmaceutical company Eli Lilly announced in September last year that in early stage trials they found a combo of anti-inflammatory drug Baricitinib (sold under the name Olumiant) and Remdesivir was able to cut short hospital stays by a day for COVID-19 patients. Conditions such as rheumatoid arthritis and others that involve overactive immune systems, already use Olumiant.

In November FDA granted an emergency use authorization for the combo therapy for treatment on adults and children in hospital, who need supplemental oxygen.

AT-527

Developed by Boston biotech Atea Pharmaceuticals this drug is being developed in collaboration with Swiss pharma company Roche. Atea began phase two trial with moderately affected COVID-19 hospital patients last May.

Plans are on for testing outside the hospital setting, to see if the drug works on recently COVID-19 exposed people.

EIDD-2801

This drug was developed by scientists from a nonprofit biotech company owned by Emory University. Research in mice revealed reduction in replication of multiple Coronaviruses, including SARS-CoV-2.

Drug maker Merck and Ridgeback Biotherapeutics LP joined hands with them to develop the drug. Unlike Remdesivir, EIDD-2801 can be ingested orally, which is likely to make it popular and available to a larger number of people.

Favipiravir

The Japanese company Fujifilm Toyama Chemical Co., Ltd., is the one that manufactures this drug, brand name Avigan. The drug has found approval in certain countries outside the US as a treatment for influenza.

Japan has been sending the drug to 43 countries for clinical trial testing in people with mild or moderate COVID-19. There is ongoing testing in Canada to see if it has can aid in outbreaks in long-term care homes.

According to results of a phase three trial that began in March last year, COVID-19 patients taking the drug showed improvement after 12 days on average in comparison to over 14 days on average for the inactive placebo group.

The company is seeking approval for the drug in Japan as a treatment for COVID-19.

Fluvoxamine

This obsessive/compulsive disorder drug was found to ease COVID-19 symptoms in a study with 152 participants. A study also suggested Fluvoxamine might aid in preventing COVID-19 symptoms from becoming worse from mild.

Kaletra

This drug combines two HIV fighting drugs, lopinavir and ritonavir. The combination is being tested for SARS-CoV-2, and the results have been mixed.

A study by Cell Press didn’t find improvements in COVID-19 patients with mild symptoms in comparison to patients who received standard care. Another study in the New England Journal of Medicine too didn’t find it effective in severe COVID cases. Also, research in the UK showed the combo wasn’t able to reduce any risk of dying, hospital stay length, or need for mechanical ventilation in COVID-19 patients.

On the other hand, the Kaletra combination, along with two more drugs, ribavirin and interferon beta-1b, was found to take less time to evict the virus from a body.

Merimepodib (VX-497)

ViralClear Pharmaceuticals Inc. developed this drug, which has proved to have antiviral and immune-suppressing effects in the past. On being tested against hepatitis C, it had only limited effects.

Still undertrial, the drug was to be tested on advanced COVID-19 cases in combination with Remdesivir, or Remdesivir with a placebo. However, the clinical trial has ended owing to safety issues.


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Niclosamide

This drug has been treating tape worms for half a century. Now, ANA Therapeutics has begun trials for oral Niclosamide for COVID-19. Studies had revealed antiviral and immune-modulating activities in the drug.

Umifenovir

This antiviral, with brand name Arbidol, has been tested alongside lopinavir/ritonavir as a treatment for COVID-19.

Research showed the triple-drug combination didn’t improve the clinical outcomes for hospitalized cases with mild to moderate symptoms. A 12-study review didn’t find any improvements COVID-19 patients.

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