08/10 News Flash 3: Can old drugs be repurposed into COVID-19 treatments?

Image courtesy of Pikist.

In the mad dash for COVID-19 antiviral treatments, one shortcut might help researchers avoid the typically long and expensive process of bringing new, safe drugs to market: using older, FDA-approved drugs. 

In a study published in Scientific Reports, French researchers screened a library of over 1500 previously approved drugs for their ability to block SARS-CoV-2 replication in cells. The researchers compared the drugs’ abilities to those of remdesivir, an in-demand antiviral whose COVID-19 treatment abilities in clinical trials have granted it emergency use authorization, but not formal FDA approval.

Ultimately, the researchers identified 15 candidates, ranging from antibiotics to central nervous system drugs, that had potent viral-blocking abilities in cells. The authors caution, however, that drugs that show promise in cell-based studies might not translate into actual treatment. Instead, more definitive answers must come from animal testing and clinical trials. However, as the search for a COVID-19 antiviral progresses, this list can help researchers narrow their focus.