Flashback to late 2021, pharmaceutical companies began trying their hands at creating anti-viral pills for the treatment of COVID-19. From Pfizer’s Paxlovid and Merck & Co.’s Mulnopiravir, The U.S. FDA has authorized their use for adults with a high risk of severe symptoms. The same anti-viral drugs were studied by experts at Harvard University, concluding that they could be effective in treating Omicron.
Anti-viral pills have proven to be beneficial in the fight against COVID-19, with Pfizer’s Paxlovid shown to reduce hospitalization and death by up to 89% and Merk’s Mulnopiravir by up to 30%. While doctors have administered them to patients with success, its limited supply hinders it from becoming a viable and available solution to treat COVID-19.
That’s why scientists are looking for other options — anti-viral drugs that are more available and more effective than what is currently in the market. UK scientists are taking their search a step further, studying if they can repurpose existing anti-viral drugs to treat COVID-19, hence increasing treatment supplies and making them readily available.
The Collaborative Project on Repurposing Anti-Viral Drugs for COVID-19
The project, funded by the Medical Research Council, brings together experts from Queen’s University Belfast, the University of Liverpool, and the University of Oxford. In a project focused on identifying drug combinations that can target the causative agent of COVID-19, the team will use a robust drug screen platform to screen 138 drugs, particularly those with known antiviral activity against SARS-CoV-2.
They will also study 4,000 other drugs and identify backup combinations for future treatments against COVID-19 mutations and evaluate the likelihood of the combinations evoking drug-resistant COVID-19 variants to minimize risks.
How the Study Can Contribute to the Fight Against COVID-19
The results of the study will be presented and recommended to national organizations, such as the UK Antiviral Task Force and UK-CTAP. Because the drugs are already licensed and authorized, no new approval phase will be necessary, allowing doctors and patients alike to use them for treatment almost immediately.
According to the Principal Investigator, Professor Ultan Power, the identified drug combinations will help reduce the burden on hospitals and healthcare institutions because the existing drugs are already readily available and have been proven safe for self-administration. Only drugs in clinical trials or approved for use will be part of the collaborative project.