Coronavirus drugs (COVID-19): approved and under study

Currently, there are no known remedies capable of effectively eliminating the new coronavirus from the body and, therefore, in most cases, treatment is done with only a few measures and medications capable of relieving the symptoms of COVID-19.

The milder cases, with symptoms similar to the common flu, can be treated at home with rest, hydration and the use of fever medicines and pain relievers. The most serious cases, on the other hand, in which more intense symptoms and complications such as pneumonia appear, need to be treated during hospitalization, often in Intensive Care Units, to ensure, mainly, the adequate administration of oxygen and the monitoring of vital signs.

In addition, there are some drugs that are being administered in hospitals and others that are being studied in clinical trials, with the aim of identifying a substance that is capable of eliminating the virus from the human body and facilitating recovery.

Approved remedies for coronavirus

The drugs that are approved for the treatment of coronavirus, by Anvisa and the Ministry of Health, are those capable of relieving the symptoms of the infection, such as:

  • Antipyretics: to lower the temperature and fight fever;
  • Painkillers: to relieve muscle pain throughout the body;
  • Antibiotics: to treat possible bacterial infections that may arise with COVID-19

These remedies should only be used under the guidance of a doctor and, although they are approved for the treatment of the new coronavirus, they are not able to eliminate the virus from the body, but are only used to relieve symptoms and improve the comfort of the infected person.

Remedies being studied

In addition to the drugs that help relieve symptoms, several countries such as the United States, China, Japan and Italy are developing studies on patients, to try to identify a drug capable of eliminating the virus from the body.

The main types of drugs being studied for the new coronavirus are:

1. Remdesivir

This is a broad-spectrum antiviral drug that was developed to treat the Ebola virus epidemic, but it has not shown as positive results as other substances. However, due to its wide action against viruses, it is being studied to understand if it can have better results in the elimination of the new coronavirus.

The first laboratory studies with this drug, both in the United States [1]  [2] and in China [3] , showed promising effects, since the substance was able to prevent the replication and multiplication of the new coronavirus, as well as and other viruses in the coronavirus family.

However, before it can be advised as a form of treatment, this drug needs to undergo several studies with humans, to understand its true effectiveness and safety. Thus, there are, at the moment, about 6 studies that are being carried out with a high number of patients infected with COVID-19, both in the United States, Europe and Japan, but the results should only be released in the beginning of April, there is no evidence yet that Remdesivir can, in fact, be used safely to eliminate the new coronavirus in humans.

2. Hydroxychloroquine and chloroquine

Hydroxychloroquine, as well as chloroquine, are two substances that are used to treat patients with malaria, lupus and some other specific health problems, but which are still not considered safe in all cases of COVID-19.

Studies carried out in France [4] and China [5] , showed promising effects of chloroquine and hydroxychloroquine in reducing viral load and decreasing the transport of the virus into cells, reducing the ability of the virus to multiply, providing, therefore, a faster recovery. However, these studies were performed on small samples and not all tests were positive. Learn more about using hydroxychloroquine to treat coronavirus .

For now, according to the Ministry of Health of Brazil, chloroquine can only be used in people admitted to the hospital, for 5 days, under permanent observation, to assess the appearance of possible serious side effects, such as heart problems or changes in vision.

3. Mefloquine

Mefloquine is a drug indicated for the prevention and treatment of malaria, in people who intend to travel to endemic areas. Based on studies that have been done in China and Italy [6] , a therapeutic regimen in which mefloquine is combined with other drugs is being studied in Russia to verify its effectiveness in controlling the disease COVID-19, but there are still no conclusive results.

Thus, the use of mefloquine to treat infection with the new coronavirus is not yet recommended because more studies are needed to prove its efficacy and safety.

4. Ivermectin

Ivermectin is a vermifuge indicated for the treatment of parasite infestations, which cause problems such as onchocerciasis, elephantiasis, pediculosis (lice), ascariasis (roundworms), scabies or intestinal strongyloidiasis and which recently showed very positive results in the elimination of the new coronavirus, in vitro .

A study carried out in Australia, tested ivermectin in cell cultures in vitro , and found that this substance was able to eliminate the SARS-CoV-2 virus in 48 hours [7] . However, clinical trials in humans are needed to verify its effectiveness in vivo , as well as the therapeutic dose and safety of the drug, which is expected to happen in a period between 6 to 9 months.


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