Old drugs may find a new purpose: fighting the Coronavirus (NYT)

A “drug repurposing” strategy uncovers dozens of compounds that have the unexpected potential to combat the virus.

In the early 1950s, psychiatrists began treating schizophrenia with a new drug called chlorpromazine. Seven decades later, the drug is still used as an anti-psychotic.

But now scientists have discovered that the drug, also known as Thorazine, can do something entirely different. It can stop the new coronavirus that causes Covid-19 from invading cells.

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

They’re startlingly diverse. Some, like chlorpromazine, have been used for years — not for viral infections, but for conditions including cancer, allergies, arthritis, even irregular menstrual periods. Other drugs have not yet been approved by the Food and Drug Administration, but they have already proven safe in clinical trials. Their track records might help them get approved faster than a drug designed from scratch.

As researchers publish findings on these promising drugs, they’re starting tests on animals and people to see how well they perform. No one should try self-medicating with any of the drugs for Covid-19, the researchers warned, since they may have dangerous side effects and have yet to be proven effective in clinical trials.

“I’m going to be brutally honest with you: 95 to 98 percent of these are going to fail,” said Sumit K. Chanda, a virologist at Sanford Burnham Prebys Medical Discovery Institute in La Jolla, Calif. “But we only need one or two…”

To read the entire article from The New York Times, click https://www.nytimes.com/2020/04/30/health/coronavirus-antiviral-drugs.html


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