More Than 100 Treatments Are Being Studied For COVID-19- We Break Down The Top 4

by Kroger Health Staff

Last Updated: April 27, 2020

Here at Kroger Health, our team of pharmacists and nurse practitioners has been carefully monitoring the trials in progress as the global scientific community searches for medications to treat COVID-19. According to The Milken Institute’s COVID-19 vaccine and treatment tracker, there are over 92 vaccines being developed and tested, 45 antibody treatments being evaluated, 20 antiviral treatments being studied, and more than 50 other types of treatment modalities in the process of being vetted. Scientists from all over the world have come together to collaborate with one another, as well as in partnership with many business and private organizations. While no drug therapy has been given full approval for use, or been proven to be highly effective at this point, there are several which are showing promise and generating worldwide interest. Let’s dive into four of the most well-publicized and most promising therapies being evaluated.
Potential COVID-19 Treatments and Vaccines in Research Pipeline
  1. Chloroquine and Hydroxychloroquine
    Originally used to treat malaria and autoimmune diseases like lupus, Chloroquine and closely-related Hydroxychloroquine are thought to have promise in treating COVID-19, primarily because of their mechanisms of action against viruses. In order for a virus to spread effectively, it must be able to reproduce itself many times over, a process known as replication. Chloroquine hampers replication by raising the pH in certain portions of body cells where the virus would typically enter and attempt to copy itself. Early studies from Italy demonstrated that when paired with Azithromycin (commonly known as a “Z-Pack,”) the drug had improved outcomes versus when it was given alone, or not at all. While the FDA has issued an Emergency Use Authorization for the drug in hospitalized COVID-19 patients, there is still limited evidence as to its precise effectiveness and mechanisms of action against the coronavirus. It’s important to remember that antimalarial drugs can also have heart-related side effects, and improper or unsupervised use can be dangerous. There are currently eight active clinical trials involving Chloroquine, with results anticipated by early summer. One trial was recently halted due to heart complications caused by the drug.
  2. Remdesivir
    During the Ebola crisis, Remdesivir was found to be a safe and effective intervention for that disease. Like Chloroquine, Remdesivir works by inhibiting viral replication, but in a slightly different way. In order for a virus to effectively copy itself, it relies on an enzyme called RNA polymerase. By deactivating this enzyme, Remdesivir may help prevent the replication and spread of viruses like COVID-19, MERS, and SARS. Thus far, a handful of patients in a few countries have been given Remdesivir and achieved full recovery, but this was done without a research framework behind it (i.e., there was no control group), so it’s not possible to say with confidence that the drug directly prompted recovery. There are currently eight clinical trials evaluating the effectiveness of Remdesivir in COVID-19 patients, plus another that just concluded and shared preliminary results. In this study of Remdesivir in severely ill patients, no significant results were seen, however the study was also terminated prematurely due to low patient count and side effects. A trial evaluating the drug’s effectiveness in moderately ill patients is set to be published next month.
  3. Ritonavir and Lopinavir
    Sold as a combination under the brand name “Kaletra,” these HIV drugs are being tested in seven clinical trials for the treatment of COVID-19, and have been highly anticipated to be a promising option for COVID-19 patients. As with the drugs previously mentioned, Kaletra inhibits viral replication by interfering with a key protein needed for the cloning to occur. However, initial trials have shown that the drug may be too specific in its action against HIV to have any impact on the coronavirus, at least in the mild to moderately ill patient groups studied thus far. Research is ongoing, and a large UK-based trial of over 6,000 patients is set to publish soon.
  4. Actemra
    One key learning that has emerged regarding COVID-19’s deadly clinical progression is the role of the immune response. In patients who experience severe infection, clinicians and researchers have observed an event known as “cytokine storm,” where immune cells such as IL-6 rapidly flood the lungs. Cytokine storm can lead to death in patients with COVID-19, so drugs that can reverse or dampen this phenomenon would be of critical importance for treatment. Actemra is an IL-6 blocker used to treat conditions like arthritis, and is currently being studied for effectiveness in seven clinical trials around the world

Never before have we seen the world’s brightest minds come together so quickly, acting in accordance with one unified purpose. While the circumstances surrounding the collaboration are dire, the resulting advances that will be made in accelerated windows of time are likely to be unprecedented. As the weeks and months unfold, we will be ever closer to a world where COVID-19 can be effectively prevented, treated, and eventually, eliminated.

Disclaimer: The information in this story is accurate as of its publication. However, the situation surrounding COVID-19 is ever-evolving. We are working to keep our stories up-to-date as changes occur, but we also encourage everyone to check news and recommendations from the CDC, WHO, and their local authorities.