Is there any specific drug to fight against COVID-19? When can we get access to the specific drug? These two questions are hard to answer for now. Developing the specific drug is quite tough. It is not practical when R&D works of new drugs usually takes too long and costs too much.
Chinese scientists realized screening existing drugs for new uses is a faster approach to combat COVID-19.
The researchers quickly selected 5,000 potentially effective drugs from more than 70,000 drugs or compounds, and then screened 100 drugs to carry out in vivo experiments of novel coronavirus activity. Every essential step of clinical trials and safety evaluation for drug development should be ensured in the process of new uses for existing drugs. All related R&D activities adhere to the principles of safety, efficacy and accessibility.
"All the current drugs used in clinical application have undergone rigorous safety research and evaluation. The indications, contraindications and adverse reactions are specified in the drug instructions. Users' safety can be guaranteed if they strictly follow treatment methods listed in the instructions and the diagnosis and treatment plan," Zhang Xinmin, Director of the Biology Center of the Ministry of Science and Technology (MOST), told Science and Technology Daily.
"To prevent mild and ordinary cases turning into severe cases, we focused on promoting Chloroquine Phosphate, Familavir and traditional Chinese medicine (TCM). The clinical application of convalescent plasma therapy, Tocilizumab, stem cells therapy and artificial liver therapy are promoted to treat patients in severe and critical condition. So far, we have achieved progress in both situations," Zhang Xinmin said.
The antimalarial drug Chloroquine Phosphate and the anti-influenza drug Arbidol have been included in the sixth version of the COVID-19 diagnosis and treatment guidelines. Tocilizumab, which was originally used to treat moderate to severe rheumatoid arthritis, has been included in the seventh version of the guidelines. Currently, it is used to treat severe patients. Fapiravir has completed clinical research and shown good efficacy. After being fully demonstrated, it has been officially recommended to be included in the COVID-19 diagnosis and treatment guidelines as soon as possible.
Zhang said that the application of the research achievements and China's medical treatment plan will be promoted in response to the current pandemic.
It is worth mentioning that traditional Chinese medicine (TCM) plays an important role in Chinese approach to fight against COVID-19.
"Xuanfeibaidu Granule is a prescription based on a combination of medical literature, clinical experience, and drug screening. We initiated a program of developing new granular drugs based on the formula of Xuanfeibaidu which has good clinical efficacy," Said Zhang Boli, member of the Central Guidance Team, academician of the Chinese Academy of Engineering (CAE) and president of Tianjin University of TCM. He and Liu Qingquan, who is also a member of Central Guidance Team and president of the Beijing Hospital of TCM, swiftly conducted syndrome research, and on this basis carried out evaluation research on the clinical efficacy of traditional Chinese medicine (TCM), as well as drug screening and new drug development.
At present, Zhang Boli's team has collected 65 kinds of marketed Chinese patent medicines for anti-influenza and anti-pneumonia, and completed the preparation of Chinese patent medicine components, virtual screening combined with in vitro evaluation, cytokine storm cell model and anti-pulmonary fibrosis cell model establishment.