Despite the advance of campaigns for mass vaccination, a crucial point in controlling the coronavirus pandemic and reducing the burden of Covid-19 is the development of simple and inexpensive treatments, which can be administered in the first days of infection to reduce the development of symptoms it’s at streaming of the virus.
Until today, despite advances in treatment and fighting Covid-19, this type of treatment does not exist. But experts believe that, soon, a antiviral oral effective against the new coronavirus will be available.
Antivirals are essential treatments for other infections, including hepatitis C, HIV and influenza. Tamiflu, one of the best known, can shorten the duration of flu symptoms and reduce the risk of hospitalization if administered quickly.
These drugs can act in three different ways: boost the immune system, block receptors to keep the virus out of healthy cells, or reduce the amount of virus in the body.
Currently, at least three drugs promising antivirals for Covid-19 are in clinical trials. One of them is molnupiravir, from MSD in partnership with Ridgeback Biotherapeutics.
The other two are a Pfizer molecule called PF-07321332 and AT-527, an antiviral produced by Roche in conjunction with Atea Pharmaceuticals.
The three act interfering in the virus’s ability to replicate in human cells. Results of these studies are expected in the coming months.
The only approved antiviral currently for the treatment of Covid-19, including in Brazil, is the remdesivir. However, the drug is administered intravenously and indicated for hospitalized patients. In other words, very different from the compounds under study.
Interest of the pharmaceutical industry
Due to their potential to alter the course of the disease, oral antivirals against infection by the new coronavirus are now the target of interest from pharmaceutical industries and funding. In June, the US government said it would invest $3.2 billion in the Antiviral Program for Pandemics, which aims to develop antivirals against coronaviruses and other pathogens.
The development of effective treatments and easy to administer to be used right at the beginning of symptoms, in order to prevent progression to severe cases and virus transmission is essential.
Vaccines essentially prevent severe illnesses and deaths. But, like all immunizers, those against Covid-19 are not 100% effective. Which means that even when most of the world’s population is vaccinated – which should only happen in the second half of 2022 – and the pandemic is under control, some people will continue to get sick. As with the flu today.