The novel coronavirus continues to confound countries across the world with its stealthy mode of transfer and ability to rapidly deteriorate the health of patients. The United States, which is now an epicentre for the disease, has struggled to form an effective response that will mitigate the spread of the virus until a vaccine can be distributed (which won’t be until at least 2021).
As it becomes increasingly evident that current efforts by citizens and officials have done little to stop the pandemic from spreading, then a growing number of people are starting to look towards drug therapy as a potential means of treatment; however, what medicine is the best remedy and whether certain medicines are remedies at all has been a highly contested topic.Read More »
A search so expansive is sure to lead to more than one false positive; and one of the most pressing issues of today is finding a way to extract truth from the flurry of confusing messages regarding the pandemic. President Trump himself has been criticized for offering dubious solutions that are not based on medical science.
Much of that controversy came to a grinding halt on Friday, when the FDA announced that remdesivir is the first antiviral medication sanctioned for treating COVID-19.
Remdesivir may be the first medication to have attained FDA approval, but there are still numerous other medicines being researched as treatments for the virus. It does stand apart from previously purported panaceas for two reasons: First, there is verifiable evidence that it truly does inhibit novel coronavirus; and second, its side-effects are not so poisonous that it worsens the condition of the patient.
Despite the immediate need for a cure that can reduce symptoms for those suffering from the virus, medical communities have been wary to recommend any specific drugs. In order to prevent deaths from ineffective treatment, medical science operates at a careful pace; however, the severity of the pandemic has spurred this usually meticulous sector into overdrive.
Recommending a medication with such little research is a nightmare for those that carry a medical license– but it’s a risk that many have deemed necessary. A rushed testing process means that doctors’ knowledge of the cost, side-effects, and availability of remdesivir, as well as other treatments, is ongoing.
Created by Gilead Sciences under direction from Tomáš Cihlář, the same biochemist that pioneered the main medicine for HIV, remdesivir is an antiviral medication that may be able to expedite recovery for patients. A study by the the US National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Disease showed that patients treated with remdesivir recovered four days faster than the control group that received a placebo.
Dr. Anthony Fauci, whose role in keeping the public updated regarding the pandemic has made him a household name, expressed his support for the new treatment.
“Remdesivir has a clear-cut, significant, positive effect in diminishing the time to recovery,” said Dr. Fauci, who has been observed as taking on a unique and precarious position in an effort to prevent deaths from the virus.
This prodrug (a medicine that is inactive until metabolized within the body) is administered by intravaneous injection and works by reducing the ability of the virus to build RNA strands. Without RNA to take over cells, the virus is unable to replicate itself and is able to be more effectively managed.
Unfortunately, there are serious dangers that are associated with remdesivir. It can have damaging effects on multiple organs, resulting in low red blood cell and platelet counts. It is especially harsh on the liver, which has shown signs of cell damage and inflammation as a side-effect of the treatment. Regardless, it’s expected that hospitals will be widely administering remdesivir in the near future.
Originally developed to treat influenza patients, this medicine has the capability to restrict the spread of coronaviruses such as SARS and MERS. There has never been a trial on human subjects, but testing for this medication has already been approved by the FDA and is underway.
Just like remdesivir, EIDD-2801 reduces viral infection within the body by affecting RNA production, but its exact method of attacking the virus is different. Under the effects of this medicine, the virus mutates rapidly so that small errors appear in the replication process. Eventually, these mutations accumulate until the virus is completely dysfunctional.
There may be a few advantages to EIDD-2801 compared to remdesivir. This can be taken orally, which makes it possible for patients to medicate themselves from home. It also may have properties that protect patients against more than just one strain of virus, which gives it potential as a broad spectrum antiviral medication.
Tocilizumab is an immunosuppressant medicine primarily used for treating juvenile arthritis. It can also assist in preventing dangerous immune responses from various diseases, and its possible applications are still being studied. Most importantly, this medicine may be able to lessen the deadliness of the pandemic by preventing cytokine storms in patients.
When a human cell detects that its been invaded by a pathogen, it may activate its own death in order to prevent spreading the disease to surrounding tissue. These microscopic self-sacrifices are regulated by proteins known as cytokines. Medical professionals have noticed that some infected patients are experiencing high levels of cytokine proteins that leads to hyperactive immune response.
These cytokine storms can be prevented before they start by tocilizumab, which binds to the specific receptor that causes inflammatory immune responses. After this receptor is essentially locked from being activated, then cytokines are kept at safe levels and patients are spared one of the most destructive symptoms of the virus.
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