Mar 25, 2020 - Health

Over 100 drugs are in testing in the race to treat coronavirus

Researchers in a lab work on a potential coronavirus vaccine

Researchers at Copenhagen University in Denmark work on a potential coronavirus vaccine. Photo: Thibault Savary/AFP/Getty Images

Scientists around the world have started dozens of clinical trials, on more than 100 drugs, in the hunt to find a product that could attack the new coronavirus. More data will be coming soon.

The big picture: Expectations need to be tempered. A vaccine is likely a long way off, and failures are inevitable. But some experimental treatments, while they still require more research, are showing promise.

Where it stands: There are more than 100 coronavirus drugs and vaccines in development worldwide, according to Umer Raffat, an analyst at Evercore ISI who has been tracking progress. 

  • The coronavirus has become the pharmaceutical world’s top priority, but safety and efficacy haven’t been proven anywhere yet.

A handful of potential treatments are worth paying particular attention to.

  • Remdesivir: This antiviral drug, made by Gilead Sciences, is the furthest along of any potential treatment. It's in six clinical trials, including two late-stage U.S. studies, and new results should come out next month.
  • mRNA-1273: This drug, made by Moderna, is the first vaccine candidate to enter a clinical trial. Moderna’s CEO said the hope is to get into a final study by this fall, but even if the vaccine proves to be effective, there are major questions how a small drugmaker can scale this to billions of people.
  • Hydroxychloroquine has almost become a household name, after President Trump touted the results from a small, imperfect French study. It's a generic drug, already on the marker and made by several companies. Chinese scientists are in the process of studying it further.
  • INO-4800: An experimental vaccine made by U.S. drugmaker Inovio is going to be tested for the first time on 30 U.S. patients next month.
  • Avigan: This influenza treatment, also known as favipiravir and made by Japanese and Chinese companies, has shown “a high degree of safety” among some coronavirus patients, according to Chinese scientists who are testing it.
  • Kevzara: This medication, made by Regeneron and Sanofi, is approved for arthritis and will now be tested in up to 400 U.S. patients in an advanced clinical trial.
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