Researchers from The Scripps Research Institute in California have identified 90 drugs that could be repurposed for treating patients with COVID-19.
For the study, the researchers screened a best-in-class drug repurposing library known as ReFRAME for drugs capable of preventing SARS-CoV-2 from replicating. The library contains both drugs already approved by the FDA and some that have already been tested for safety in humans.
All in all, they screened almost 12,000 drugs. They used each to treat two different types of laboratory-cultured SARS-CoV-2 infected human cells. After 24 or 48 hours, they then measured levels of viral infection in the cells to see if the drugs were successful in preventing replication of the virus. On some occasions, they applied two drugs at the same time to see if they would compliment each other.
From all the drugs screened, the researchers identified 90 that were capable of preventing the spread of SARS-CoV-2 in at least one of the human cell lines tested. Among them, 13 were regarded as having a high potential for being repurposed as a COVID-19 therapy due to their potency, likely mechanism of action and pharmacokinetic properties.
While four of these drugs (halofantrine, nelfinavir, simeprevir and manidipine) have already been approved by the FDA, the other nine are still in the drug development process. Alongside this, the researchers found 19 other drugs that seemed to enhance the effects of remdesivir. They also went on to test the best-performing drugs on animal models.
"The results from the cellular assays and animal models are very promising and the need for medical remedies to address COVID-19 remains urgent," says Peter Schultz, one of the study’s authors. "It is critical we proceed with the utmost rigor to determine what is safe and effective, as diligence is the most expedient path to finding new therapies that will make a difference for patients."