December 10, 2020

Which COVID-19 treatments are showing promise? A list of potential drugs

[New York Post, Reuters/File Photo]

The race is on to find a treatment that works to quash the coronavirus — as the deadly disease continues to spread across the globe.

Here’s a list of the most promising treatments and potential vaccines for SARS-CoV-2, the virus that causes COVID-19.


The experimental antiviral drug, made by Gilead Sciences, was the first to get emergency-use authorization from the US Food and Drug Administration. It was initially developed to treat Hepatitis C and RSV, a virus that can cause potentially serious respiratory infections, and works by stopping viruses from replicating by inserting itself into infected genes.

The Food and Drug Administration approved the antiviral drug as a treatment for patients hospitalized with COVID-19 on Oct. 22.

Remdesivir was recently shown to have reduced the risk of death for severely ill coronavirus patients by 62 percent during a clinical study.

An earlier study also found that remdesivir helped coronavirus patients recover more quickly.


The FDA has given an emergency green light to Regeneron’s COVID-19 antibody drug, the same treatment administered to  President Trump.

The treatment is for patients with mild cases of the coronavirus, the agency said.


Several US hospitals began using the widely available steroid to treat COVID-19 patients in June after a preliminary study by British researchers found that the inexpensive drug lowered the risk of death by about a third in patients requiring mechanical breathing assistance or oxygen.

The anti-inflammatory is used to treat edema, tumors in the spine and brain and eye inflammation. It is also used as a treatment for certain types of autoimmune diseases and cancers including leukemia, lymphoma and multiple myeloma.

A pharmacist holds a box of dexamethasone tablets. AFP via Getty Images

But dexamethasone may do more harm than good for patients with milder cases of coronavirus, however. The National Institutes of Health does not recommend using the drug on those who do not require supplemental oxygen or a ventilator.


Critically ill patients have also bounced back quicker thanks to RLF-100, or aviptadil, a synthetic form of a natural peptide that protects the lung. The treatment was just granted fast-track emergency use designation in the US by the FDA.

Interferon beta

An inhalable form of interferon beta, a protein that’s produced by the body battling a viral infection, helped reduced the odds of patients developing serious cases of coronavirus by 79 percent, according to a preliminary study of a Phase II clinical trial released last month. The treatment, developed by UK company Synairgen, was inhaled directly into the lungs.

Interferon beta Shutterstock

The trial, however, was conducted only on a small set of patients.


More than 165 coronavirus vaccines are currently being developed — and 27 have reached human trials, according to the New York Times.

The Trump administration has been doling out serious amounts of funding for various potential vaccines that are being developed by firms including Pfizer, Moderna, Johnson & Johnson and AstraZeneca. The goal is to deliver 300 million doses of an effective coronavirus vaccine by January.

Massachusetts-based Moderna applied for emergency use authorization with the FDA at the end of November, as it revealed new data showing its vaccine candidate was 94.1 percent effective in a late-stage clinical trial.

The move came just days after Manhattan-based Pfizer and its German partner BioNTech were the first to seek emergency FDA approval, saying their inoculation was 95 percent effective and posed no serious safety concerns in a major clinical trial.

AstraZeneca also reported that its vaccine appears to be nearly 90 percent effective, based on late-stage-trial results. A significant advantage to the immunization is that it requires just regular refrigeration, as opposed to some of the vaccines, which must be frozen for long-term storage.

Meanwhile, a two-dose COVID-19 vaccine being developed by Johnson & Johnson has entered a late-stage trial.

The New Jersey-based drugmaker had already been conducting a stage-three trial for a vaccine that is administered in a single dose — but the new trial will try to determine how effective the second dose may be in extending immunity, according to the website BioPharma-Reporter.

Maryland-based Novavax is also developing a vaccine — NVX-CoV2373. The US government committed $1.6 billion to the biotech company last month to help it kickstart production and fund a Phase 3 clinical trial with up to 30,000 participants that is slated to begin in the fall.

By Lia Eustachewich

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