It’s one of the most targeted solutions in modern-day science: a pill that can combat COVID-19.
While the world now has drugs to address many of the disease’s most serious symptoms and vaccines to prevent infection by the SARS-CoV-2 virus, the holy grail is a pill. But it has to do more than just work. It also needs to be affordable, have tolerable side effects and work as well as intravenous antibody treatments.
In other words, scientists and physicians need the equivalent of Tamiflu, the ubiquitous prescription medicine used to treat flu symptoms in their early stages.
While the effort to develop COVID-19 vaccines got most of the attention, there has been a parallel effort to create something to treat the disease itself — a safe, easy, oral drug. The SARS-CoV-2 virus evolves rapidly, keeping scientists on their toes as they look for a drug that can hit the proverbial moving target.
Take the case of another coronavirus targeted by scientists — the common cold. Billions of dollars have been spent on finding a cure that has yet to happen. Still, scientists at the National Institutes of Health and elsewhere are on the trail. There have been partial successes such as remdesivir, which has been shown to reduce the length of hospitalizations among COVID-19 patients. And a pair of antibody treatments have helped to keep high-risk patients out of the hospital. Yet, there have been misses, such as the much-touted antimalaria drug hydroxychloroquine.
But there is hope on the horizon, including a trio of therapies that could be a COVID-19 antiviral. Three such drugs are in pharmaceutical companies’ evaluation and testing pipelines.