Even though since the Coronavirus outbreak in China in December 2019 scientists from all around the world have been trying to find a cure for the COVID-19, as of now there is no specific vaccine or medication for the disease. But there are several experimental drugs which are being used to treat Coronavirus patients. Among them are anti-malaria medication hydroxychloroquine and Ebola drug remdesivir.
While any promising Coronavirus drug still needs to undergo rigorous clinical trials to know for sure how effective it is, developed around 10 years ago remdesivir showed potential for COVID-19, say researchers. But scientists reported dozens of heart incidents linked to the most popular drug at this time, hydroxychloroquine.
Hydroxychloroquine and Remdesivir
Hydroxychloroquine is used to treat malaria, lupus and rheumatoid arthritis. It is a less powerful medication and by some experts' accounts, less toxic, version of chloroquine phosphate. While NHS is using this drug for experimental purpose, French health officials are now planning on a larger trial of the drug. The side effects include skin rashes, nausea, diarrhoea and headaches.
Among all the drugs claimed to work against the Coronavirus, remdesivir, developed by Gilead sciences could be the closest to commercial launch. The drug has shown early promise in treating some Chinese COVID-19 patients, as per the doctors. Even earlier scientists said this is proven to be safe in humans. In a press conference in China, Bruce Aylward, a WHO official said, "There's only one drug right now that we think may have real efficacy. And that's remdesivir."
Experimental coronavirus treatments with hydroxychloroquine
The drug became popular during the Coronavirus crisis after US President Donald Trump on several occasions claimed that hydroxychloroquine is the most promising medication that would treat Coronavirus patients. Even India, which is the largest producer of hydroxychloroquine in the world, recently agreed to lift the ban on the export of the medicine to the US after Trump spoke to Prime Minister Narendra Modi.
But as per new data released by France's drug safety agency, it was revealed that 43 cases of heart incidents linked to this highly popular hydroxychloroquine, underscoring the risk of providing unproven treatments to Coronavirus patients. The agency said, "This initial assessment shows that the risks, in particular cardiovascular, associated with these treatments are very present and potentially increased in COVID-19 patients. Almost all of the declarations come from health establishments," adding that "These drugs should only be used in hospitals, under close medical supervision."
It should be noted that in France, there are 100 health incidents and four deaths which are related to the use of experimental drugs on Coronavirus patients since late March. As per the reports, the incidents were roughly split between hydroxychloroquine and HIV medication lopinavir-ritonavir.
Use of remdesivir as promising Coronavirus medication
In a study, which was published in The New England Journal of Medicine the researchers claimed to have analyzed 53 coronavirus patients who had been given remdesivir and found that in 68 percent of them, doctors were able to reduce the amount of oxygen support needed. Even 17 of 30 patients who were on ventilators, finally showed improvements and were able to come off of the life support which is very unlikely. It should be noted that New York Governor Andrew Cuomo said last week, "If you go on a ventilator there is roughly only a 20 percent chance that you will come off the ventilator."
As reported by the NBC News Dr Greg Poland, an infectious disease expert and director of the Mayo Clinic's Vaccine Research Group in Rochester, Minnesota said that "I would say it's an incremental and potentially positive piece of data in the journey to understand what antivirals are going to be the most helpful."
However, it should be noted that any promising drug still needs to undergo rigorous clinical trials to make sure that these medications are safe and effective for Coronavirus patients.