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As pandemic continues, new treatments being developed outside of vaccines

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Posted at 5:56 PM, May 06, 2021
and last updated 2021-05-06 18:01:41-04

Infectious disease experts say now is the time for therapeutics to get the focus and attention that vaccines received at the start of the pandemic.

“We need a pill that can keep people out of the hospital, and the time to develop that is right now, because the U.S. will continue to have outbreaks. India is in the midst of a massive outbreak and unless we can prevent hospitalizations, health care systems get overwhelmed and variants get bred and those variants come back to cause greater devastation,” said Dr. Rajesh T. Gandhi, IDSA fellow and HIV Medicine Association chair.

Doctors with the Infectious Diseases Society of America (IDSA) discussed promising COVID-19 treatments in development. They say at first, the focus was on repurposing old drugs. Now, it's new drugs aimed at stopping virus replication.

“There's also a drug working against the viral proteins from Pfizer that’s looking at not the body the human side, but the virus proteins, so I think that has a lot of interest in that and then there's other drugs one from Roche that’s also being developed,” said Gandhi.

“I think as a society, we should focus on and invest in studying cheaper, easier to manufacturer drugs in combination that would be effective in stemming the infection early on or even preventing the infection,” said Dr. Adarsh Bhimraj.

The doctors believe there doesn't need to be a magic bullet drug to stop COVID-19, but rather a new cocktail of anti-viral treatments. Those treatments would target different parts of the virus at different stages, before and after hospitalization. That could also prevent the virus from becoming treatment resistant.

“We know from the recent history of medicine that when you develop a drug from one virus, it often gives you insights in how to do things for other viruses. One thing I think we would all agree is we want to be prepared for the next pandemic ahead of time. We don’t want to be dealing with pandemics when you're in the midst of them,” said Gandhi.

The doctors are cautiously optimistic we could have several promising new treatments by the end of the year.