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COVID-19: Progress at Emory on new drug; survey shows doctor support for anti-malarials

David Pendered
Coronavirus COVID-19 virus

By David Pendered

Treatments of the coronovirus are emerging from two groups in metro Atlanta – a drug that Emory University is helping to create; and a nationwide survey of doctors that shows a majority would prescribe to their family members a malaria drug cited by President Trump.

News about the progress with the drug, to be administered in a pill, was published Monday a report in the journal Science Translational Medicine. Emory last month sought contributions from metro Atlanta corporate community to fund human testing of a pill to treat the virus.

covid, anti-malarial

A majority of doctors would prescribe an anti-malarial drug to a relative or themselves if they displayed symptoms of COVID-19, according to a recent survey by the physician staffing firm Jackson & Coker. Credit: Jackson & Coker

The survey, released Wednesday by the physician staffing firm Jackson & Coker, based in Alpharetta, involved 1,271 doctors in all 50 states. Results showed 65 percent of doctors said they would prescribe to a family member the drug chloroquine or hydroxychloroquine to treat or prevent COVID-19. Eleven percent of doctors said they would not take either drug to combat COVID-19.

Clinical trials of the new drug are expected to begin later this Spring and the drug could halt a reemergence of COVID-19, according to a report in the journal, Drug Target Review. A reemergence is a major concern that weighs heavily in the world’s eventual effort to stand down from efforts to halt the spread of the coronavirus,

The report in Drug Target Review is more accessible to lay readers. Referring to the drug, described as a “broad spectrum oral antiviral EIDD-2801,” the report observes the drug shows signs that it can prevent COVID-19, as well as treat the disease:

  • “Researchers have demonstrated that EIDD-2801, an oral antiviral drug, can be used as either a prophylactic or a therapeutic for SARS-CoV-2, the coronavirus causing the COVID-19 pandemic. The drug also showed efficacy against related coronaviruses SARS-CoV and MERS-CoV.”

Quotes in the report that describe the apparent break-through nature of the drug include:

  • “This new drug not only has high potential for treating COVID-19 patients, but also appears effective for the treatment of other serious coronavirus infections.” – Ralph Baric, the senior study author and distinguished professor of epidemiology at the University of North Carolina’s Gillings School of Global Public Health.
  • “We are amazed at the ability of EIDD-1931 and -2801 to inhibit all tested coronaviruses and the potential for oral treatment of COVID-19.” – Andrea Pruijssers, the lead antiviral scientist in the Vanderbilt University Medical Center.
Coronavirus COVID-19 virus

This image is a computer generated representation of COVID-19 virions (SARS-CoV-2) under electron microscope, according to the author. File/Credit: Felipe Esquivel Reed

An Emory researcher is quoted as explaining a technical detail of the drug – it is a combination of two treatments.

  • “Viruses that carry remdesivir resistance mutations are actually more susceptible to EIDD-1931 and vice versa, suggesting that the two drugs could be combined for greater efficacy and to prevent the emergence of resistance.” – George Painter, chief executive officer of the non-profit DRIVE (Drug Innovation Ventures at Emory) and director of the Emory Institute for Drug Development (EIDD).

The anti-malaria drugs received emergency approval last week from the federal Food and Drug Administration to treat maladies not listed on the label. One of those off-label uses is to treat the virus that causes COVID-19.

Highlights of the survey show:

  • The specialists most likely to prescribe anti malarial drugs include: “anesthesiologists, surgery subspecialists, physicians in diagnositic medicine, women’s medicine, internal medicine and hospital-based medicine.”
  • Of physicians surveyed, “67 percent said they would take the medications themselves to treat COVID-19; 56 percent said they would take the anti- malarial if they displayed symptoms; 11 percent said they would take the medications if they got very sick from the virus; … 30 percent said they would prescribe the medications to a family member prior to the onset of symptoms if they had been exposed to COVID-19.”

Jackson & Coker said it conducted the survey of 1,271 physicians from 50 states from April 4 to April 7. The survey has a margin of error of +/- 3 percent, with a 95 percent confidence level of the doctors surveyed. The company said its motive is, “not to influence the debate in treating patients with anti-malarials but to make sure the voice of physicians is represented.”

 

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David Pendered
David Pendered

David Pendered, Managing Editor, is an Atlanta journalist with more than 30 years experience reporting on the region’s urban affairs, from Atlanta City Hall to the state Capitol. Since 2008, he has written for print and digital publications, and advised on media and governmental affairs. Previously, he spent more than 26 years with The Atlanta Journal-Constitution and won awards for his coverage of schools and urban development. David graduated from North Carolina State University and was a Western Knight Center Fellow.

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