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Fighting the New Coronavirus in the Absence of a Proven Therapy

February 3, 2020 -- While researchers race to develop a new Coronavirus vaccine, doctors are using currently available drugs to treat severe cases of the virus.

Several patients have seen an improvement in their condition following treatment with a combination of flu and HIV (human immunodeficiency virus) medications at the Rajavithi Hospital in Bangkok, Thailand. The patients were treated with high-dose oseltamivir (Tamiflu) in combination with the anti-HIV drugs lopinavir and ritonavir, which are available in a single product called Kaletra in the United States and Aluvia in China. Importantly, a 70-year-old Chinese woman from Wuhan tested negative to the virus within 48 hours of starting treatment with the cocktail, despite having tested positive for the disease over the previous 10 days. 

An article in The Lancet has also reported that the combination of lopinavir and ritonavir is undergoing investigation in a randomized clinical trial in patients with the Coronavirus at the Jin Yintan Hospital in Wuhan, China. The combination may also be tested in combination with interferon beta-1b (Betaseron, Extavia) in Hong Kong if more patients present with the virus.

Remdesivir, an experimental nucelotide analog being developed by Gilead Sciences, has also been used to treat a 35-year-old man in the United States. According to a case report in the New England Journal of Medicine, the man had recently returned from visiting family in Wuhan and had developed mild symptoms of the virus. When his condition worsened, his pneumonia was treated with intravenous remdesivir. All of the patient’s symptoms resolved following treatment, except for a cough that was continuing to improve. By the end of January, Gilead Sciences had formalized an agreement with Chinese authorities allowing remdesivir to be tested in patients with Coronavirus. Doses of the drug have been provided.

In addition to Gilead’s remdesivir, Biocryst Pharma’s antiviral galidesivir is being investigated and Regneron is looking to identify a monoclonal antibody that might help. Meanwhile, Inovivo Pharmacuticals (INO-4800), Novavax, Moderna Therapeutics and Johnson & Johnson are reported to be working on vaccines. Johnson & Johnson has also supplied 300 boxes of its HIV medication Prezcobix (cobicistat and darunavir) to the Zhongnan Hospital of Wuhan University and Shanghai Public Health Clinical Center for use in research to find a treatment.

Having been declared a global health emergency by the World Health Organization (WHO) on 30 January, the race to find an effective treatment against the new Coronavirus continues.


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