As of now, the current pandemic lasts for about 2 years. At first glance, it may seem that this period is too long and humanity must have overcome this cataclysm many months ago. Yet, in terms of science, this period is relatively short for studying and taking under control an absolutely new infection. Nevertheless, the fact that this pandemic is an acute issue of a global scale keeps on pushing research forward at a breakneck speed. Just think of it — over a million people around the world get infected every day and thousands of them unfortunately die. No doubt, humanity is in urgent need of new solutions.
Thus, the most prominent doctors and pharmacists from every corner of our planet have united their knowledge, experience, and efforts to find effective and safe treatment and prevention solutions. In fact, over this two-year period, hundreds of studies and trials have been performed.
One may wonder why doctors invest so much time and effort in searching for treatment methods when there are vaccines available to everyone free of charge in virtually every country (thanks to the COVAX program). Indeed, they work well for the overwhelming majority of people and ensure 90+% protection against death. But there are people with a weakened immune system, which cannot respond to a vaccine properly and form the corresponding immunity. Besides, they may be less effective against new variants of the virus. Not to mention those who do not get vaccinated due to medical contraindications or their personal prejudices.
In general, there are two major approaches in the Covid research: some teams work on creating new drugs and others are focused on testing existing ones for the potential for treating this disease.
For example, the team of the US National Institutes of Health has initiated over 30 studies related to the new infection and 13 of them are not finished yet. Some of the products under investigation are supposed to have a direct antiviral effect and to kill the virus itself, but there are also medications intended at relieving certain symptoms and complications such as inflammation or blood clots. Certainly, some of the medicines fail to fulfill the expectations and turn out to be ineffective against the new virus. Still, such results also play a significant role as they warn which methods will not work and help to avoid wasting time, which is critical for many patients.
Scientists from the NIH and other institutions and organizations believe that this year (2022) will make a huge difference in how this new disease is treated as hundreds of studies are due to be completed and reported during the next few months.
Namely, as of now, there are about a dozen approved treatments (that depends on the country), including Paxlovid, Molnupiravir, Dexamethasone, Remdesevir, and others. And almost 100 have already reached the latest stages of studies.
Let us give a glimpse at the most promising options:
- This steroid helps to suppress excessive immune reactions in severe patients and prevent deaths in such a way.
- This antiviral drug is authorized for at-home use in patients with mild and moderate forms of the disease if they belong to a high-risk category.
- Monoclonal antibodies. Such laboratory alternatives to a patient’s own antibodies are created to fight and eliminate the virus when his own immune system cannot cope with that. It may surprise you but the list of such molecules exceeds 200 options, and many of them have already been approved like Evusheld in the UK.
- Lagevrio (Molnupiravir) and Paxlovid (Nirmatrelvir plus Ritonavir). These two medications made a small revolution as they became available as oral pills for mild forms of the disease, which can be administered in at-home conditions. They allow reducing the number of people that get hospitalized in a severe state. More to the point, there are over two hundred other formulas similar to these two drugs that are investigated at the moment.
- This anti-cancer product has been investigated for the potential to prevent or reduce the replication of the virus and suppress its further mutation, i.e. the development of new variants, which may be more dangerous as there is a risk that they may bypass the immunity protection formed by vaccination and previous contacts with the virus.
- It is also targeted at inhibiting replication by preventing the virus from penetrating the cells of an organism.
Which of these treatments is the best? That depends on the situation. Some of them are meant for severe stages, others are applied as an early prevention means for high-risk categories of people. Besides, many of them are available to a restricted circle of patients only, due to a short supply or extremely high cost. Luckily, the market and research trends are changing in favor of affordable and easily-accessible options.
Meanwhile, experts also consider combining medicines from different classes. First, they suppose that may provide a synergistic effect. Second, that is supposed to prevent the virus from getting adjusted to the treatments applied. In practice, the range and supply of effective medicines are limited so far, hence, we cannot afford to lose any of them.
For example, the RECOVERY team from the UK is going to test Lagevrio and Paxlovid (which were mentioned above) in non-typical conditions — in severe patients — as they believe such patients will benefit more from them. Within their trial, some patients will receive only one of these medications, others will take a combination of both of them or a combination with a monoclonal antibody. In addition, they plan to test such anti-inflammatory meds as dexamethasone and certain antidiabetic products.
Another promising scheme is an antiparasitic medication (Ivermectin) plus an antimalarial drug (Artesunate/Amodiaquine), which will be tested within the ANTICOV study. Although Ivermectin failed to provide clearly positive results at the early stages of the coronavirus disease, it is believed to have a strong anti-inflammatory potential, which is crucial at the severe stages.
And, in the end, one must also highlight that, as the pandemic is still actively spreading and giving birth to new variants, the priorities change day by day. Characteristic symptoms, their severity, and vulnerable groups vary for every new variant. So, some of the drugs may just become useless at some point even before they get approved by authorities.
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