New Drug Candidates and Treatment Options for COVID-19

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Ever since COVID-19 hit, a lot has changed. From knowing nothing to cracking the virus structure to coming up with potential treatment options, it won’t be wrong to say that we’re in a much better place as compared to where we were on day one of the pandemic. 

When COVID-19 first hit, the virus was completely foreign to the scientists, researchers and doctors. Nobody knew what it was like or what could stop it. But then, a team of researchers in China was finally able to decode the virus structure and were able to figure out the enzyme arrangement of the virus. This was a starting point for scientists around the world. They knew that if they could target this unit, combating the virus was possible. Since then, there have been multiple treatment suggestions, some which the FDA approved of, some which they didn’t and some which the FDA pulled back after giving initial approval.

Currently, a number of treatment options are under experiment and research, which the scientists believe hold the potential to treat the COVID-19 infection without producing any side effects in humans. Let’s have a look at these new drug candidates and treatment options.

11a and 11b

After researchers found out that there was a protease unit in SARS-CoV-2, without which it couldn’t possibly survive, they were able to come up with two new compounds – that they referred to as 11a and 11b. These new compounds were able to target the protease unit in the COVID-19 virus and inhibit it. After monitoring the anti-viral activity of 11a and 11b, they found out that they were quite effective in fighting the infection.

The plus point of using these compounds was that the enzyme that they target to fight the infection was absent in humans, which meant little or no side effects in humans. 11a was found to be less toxic. Therefore, 11a is now one of the many new candidates that are under further study. 


Originally developed for the treatment of the Ebola virus, Remdesivir received an Emergency Use Authorization (EUA) by the FDA for COVID-19 on May 1, 2020. According to the FDA, it can be administered in children and adults who’ve been hospitalized for COVID-19, via the IV (intravenous) route. It is still an investigational drug and there are no FDA-approved indications for it. However, it has shown a ray of hope in the treatment of COVID-19 infections in Japan.  


Although EIDD-2801 has no FDA approval or an EUA yet, it is under investigation for the treatment of the coronavirus. One of the benefits that END-2801 has over Remdesivir is that it can be administered orally; therefore it can be used without hospitalization. It has shown promising activity against SARS-CoV-2 and MERS in animals, but whether or not it is safe for humans is still under evaluation. Clinical trials have already been conducted in May, but the results are pending.    


It is an anti-parasite molecule which is used for the treatment of river blindness and African sleeping sickness. It is a broad-spectrum antiviral that is effective against HIV, hepatitis C, Zika virus, herpes simplex type-1, and chikungunya viruses. According to studies conducted, it might be a possible candidate for the treatment of a COVID-19 infection. It was found to offer complete protection against the cell death induced by SARS-CoV-2 and reduces the extracellular RNA levels in the virus. 

The study suggested that it can be used as an effective treatment in patients that are still in an early phase of the infection, particularly at the stage of entry in the host cells or viral binding. There have been no clinical trials yet to check its efficacy and safety in humans. 

3-Drug Combination

Phase-II clinical trials have been conducted on a 3-drug combo of Interferon beta-1b, ribavirin and Lopinavir-ritonavir, and this combination has been found to be effective when it comes to treating less severe cases of COVID-19. The trial was 14-days long, in which one group of 86 patients was given these three drugs, while the control group of 41 volunteers were given lopinavir and ritonavir only. The first group should have effective virus clearance after just 7 days, whereas, in the control group, it took an average of 12 days. The best outcome of these trials was that there were no serious adverse effects. 

According to results, researchers suggest that interferon beta-1b might be the star component of this treatment combo. Further investigation is underway.  


Favilavir is an already marketed anti-viral medicine. It inhibits RdRp. It has been approved for the COVID-19 infection treatment in China and Italy, but it still lacks the approval by the FDA. Phase-II clinical trials were conducted to see how effective this broad-spectrum antiviral was against COVID-19. The trials were 25 days long. It was administered to 760 CVODI-19 positive patients at the end of May in Canada. The results are yet to be released. However, some other studies conducted on the same drug molecule don’t suggest it as an effective treatment option for the COVID-19 infection. 


Baricitinib is an oral drug. This JAK1/JAK2 inhibitor is in Phase-III trials at present to see its effects in hospitalized COVID-19 patients. It is an oral drug that is available in the market by the name Olumiant for the treatment of moderate to severe active rheumatoid arthritis. Its efficacy against SARS-Cov-2 is yet to be found. 

Closing Word

Several potential treatment options for the COVID-19 infection are still under investigation and testing. While there are plenty of them at the moment, none of them have been approved by the FDA as the ultimate treatment option. Hydroxychloroquine was one of the most-hyped treatment options that the FDA had given an EUA for the treatment of COVID-19, but after the discovery that its side effects outweigh the benefits, the FDA pulled the EUA back. Although there are many treatment options on the list right now, the safety of all of them still need to be evaluated. It seems like there is still a long way to go. 

In the meantime, there are things you can do to protect yourself. Some are well known, such as wearing masks (which help prevent your molecules from spreading to others(, six-foot distancing, staying home as much as possible and most important and avoiding crowds, wash your hands frequently!  

Additionally, try to stay as healthy as possible by taking vitamins (vitamin D and C are the most important) and any immune boosters. Eat lots of fruits and vegetables and visit your doctor to get the most efficient advise on your health!