Repurposing existing drugs to treat COVID-19
Labs around the world are working around the clock to find a way to treat COVID-19 and that is also happening at AdventHealth in Orlando.
ORLANDO, fla. – A drug made to fight Ebola and another that takes on rheumatoid arthritis are among the latest being tapped to treat COVID-19, and doctors in Orlando are helping to find out if they’re effective or not.
Leaders at AdventHealth say their teams are currently using remdesivir and sarilumab to treat Covid-19 patients as part of a nationwide, blind clinical trial.
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Advent’s Chief Scientific Officer Dr. Steven Smith said the repurposed drugs show promise.
Remdesivir, an intravenous drug manufactured by Gilead Pharmaceuticals, is an antiviral made to target Ebola, but Smith said it shows promise against Covid-19 too.
A scientist inspecting the investigational drug remdesivir. Courtesy: Gilead Pharmaceuticals
Dr. Steven Smith, AdventHealth’s Chief Scientific Officer. Courtesy: Advent Health
“It turns off the replication or the advancement of the virus,” said Dr. Smith, Thursday.
The second drug, sarilumab is an immune suppressor, said Smith.
Dr. Smith said one of Covid-19’s effects on the body is an amped up immune response, which sarilumab could potentially calm.
“The body’s immune system gets overactive – it goes crazy trying to fight the virus – and that overactive immune system actually damages the lungs, and kidneys, and other organs,” he said.
Unlike other drugs being used in treatment of Covid-19, Smith said these are actually being administered in full scientific studies; using placebos. Smith believes the trials are close to coming to a close and could produce real answers soon.
“This won’t be a ‘maybe yes, maybe no,’ these are definitive studies that could answer questions and change how we treat patients,” he said. “This one is really solid and we’ll get solid answers.”
Studies like these are important steps to full approval by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA). The group has allowed several drugs to be used as emergency treatments for Covid-19’s sickest patients, but so far none have undergone full trial and approval for the illness.
While that process does take time, Dr. Smith said it’s important so that, in future cases of Covid-19, doctors have definitive answers and tested treatments to turn to.
Smith said both of these drugs are, like others, only being used to treat Covid-19’s sickest, hospitalized patients.
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