Anti-coronavirus drugs can make a difference

For the time being, the coronavirus epidemic can only be controlled with vaccines, but the first anti-Covid drugs may become available by the end of this year. Merck and Pfizer are closest to this, but Japan’s Shionogi is also experimenting.

More than a year and a half after the pandemic broke out, many may rightly ask the question: when will there be a cure for the disease, if at all?

There is little to wait for answers, as several pharmaceutical companies are making tremendous progress in the clinical testing of their proprietary products, and if all goes according to plan, they may even be on the market in late 2021 or early 2022.

According to the present position, Pfizer and Merck are the closest to this breakthrough, but they are also closely followed by the Japanese Shionogi, which is already testing its invention on humans. The primary results are encouraging, but it would be premature to draw a long-term conclusion from them.

By definition, companies are also in a serious financial battle with each other, as the priority could be huge revenues, but their goal is the same: to develop a drug that is at least as effective as the best vaccines now available.

I need a medicine in addition to vaccines

Experts now largely agree that while the spread of the coronavirus epidemic can be curbed by vaccines, it cannot be stopped once and for all by vaccinations alone. This is partly because everyone in developed countries does not take the vaccine either, it is enough to think of Israel, where vaccination rates are well above 50 percent, but the number of new infections is rising sharply. The other reason is that vaccines that provide protection are only slowly reaching the poorest regions of the world.

Billions of people are still susceptible to the virus, which is mutating. The delta variant, first identified in India, spreads much faster than the original coronavirus, and in many cases the course of the disease is more severe. As there are still many potential carriers of the virus, it is not completely ruled out that new mutants will develop that play the immune system more efficiently.

All of this could be prevented with a potential drug that researchers around the world have been working on for months. Currently, remdesivir is the only anti-coronavirus drug already in use, but it can only be given in hospitals and is not nearly one hundred percent effective.

ULRICH PERREY / dpa-POOL / dpa Picture-Alliance / AFP

The primary goal, however, would be to produce a drug that is readily available to anyone and can be taken at home if someone has a positive test but still has mild or moderate symptoms.

Merck and Pfizer are in the lead

As early as April, Merck announced that the so-called molnupiravir, which was launched years ago against the Ebola virus, was successfully reducing the amount of the virus in patients’ bodies and thus lower the chances of being hospitalized. More serious trials are currently underway in patients who have been shown to be Covid-positive within five days and are at risk due to their chronic illness. The five-day time limit is important because the later you start using the drug, the less effective it can be.

Pfizer also tests two antiviral drugs, one of which must be given intravenously and the other can be taken orally. Albert Bourla, the company ‘s CEO said two months ago that they would rather focus on the latter, as it has several benefits. For example, you don’t have to go to the hospital for it, so you can relieve some of the pressure from an already overburdened health care system.

Bourla then also said the turning point in the epidemic could be an effective drug and, depending on the success of clinical trials, could even be on the market by the end of the year. They are now there to soon test the effectiveness of the pill on two thousand patients.

Japan’s Shionogi, best known for developing a cholesterol-lowering drug called Crestor, is the latest in the line: the company will test its product in 50-100 people for the first time, followed by a larger number of placebo-controlled trials later this year. The drug was developed to neutralize the virus in patients within five days, even in the initial phase of the disease. This is the only drug under trial that would be enough to take just one a day, Pfizer and Merck are testing with two tablets a day.

All three drugs would prevent the virus from being able to multiply in humans. This can also minimize long-term complications in patients who have undergone Covid-19, as it would actually expel the virus from the body.

The good news is also that the production of these drugs is also relatively cheaper and faster than that of vaccines. Thus, their distribution could not be such a problem globally either, meaning that residents of poorer countries could also be more secure.

The chances are good, but it would be premature to drink on the bear’s skin

The other side of the coin is that the success of drug trials is generally quite low, and if even a mild side effect occurs significantly in volunteers, they should not be allowed to be used at home under any circumstances. And it is not yet known if the virus can be killed out of the body fast enough so that patients may not even suffer severe respiratory damage.

Mandatory and rather important approval procedures may also slow down the process, but at the time of the coronavirus epidemic, vaccines have also been speeded up, so presumably medicines will not sit on applications for years.

It would still be a great courage to draw a concrete conclusion now, but Merck and Pfizer are expected to move to the final, third experimental phase within a few months, and if all goes well, there may indeed be a preparation around Christmas that will help after illness. will provide.

And the question of an even more distant future is whether, if it really is an effective medicine, to what extent it will repel the sky-racing vaccination in many parts of the world anyway. Already if you need vaccines in addition to medications.