Old drugs may find a new purpose: Fighting the coronavirus

Driven by the spread of COVID-19, research teams have been screening thousands of drugs to see if they have this unexpected potential to fight the coronavirus. They have tested the drugs on dishes of cells, and a few dozen candidates have made the first cut for repurposing.

Driven by the spread of COVID-19, research teams have been screening thousands of drugs to see if they have this unexpected potential to fight the coronavirus. They have tested the drugs on dishes of cells, and a few dozen candidates have made the first cut for repurposing. Some of the drugs have been used for years for conditions including cancer, allergies, and arthritis. Other drugs have not yet been approved by FDA, but they have already proven safe in clinical trials. Their track records might help them get approved faster than a drug designed from scratch. "I'm going to be brutally honest with you: 95% to 98% of these are going to fail," said Sumit K. Chanda, MD, a virologist at Sanford Burnham Prebys Medical Discovery Institute in La Jolla, CA. "But we only need one or two." The most obvious drugs to repurpose against the new coronavirus are those that work against other viruses. Over the years, researchers have found some drugs that originally had nothing to do with viruses turn out to be good antivirals, too. "We don't know a lot about why drugs do what they do," said Matthew Frieman, MD, a virologist at the University of Maryland School of Medicine.