With the entire world grappling with the novel coronavirus, a cure, if found, would be an utter relief, especially in a country like India where the number of reported cases is skyrocketing day by day. Though no specific antiviral treatment for covid-19 exists as of now, some drugs developed to cure other viral infections have proven to stabilise coronavirus patients and in fact cure them as well.
Why developing a COVID-19 medicine is challenging?
So far, HIV drugs are among the handful of anti-viral drugs that have succeeded. The medicine does not cure the virus but suppresses it to the point that it can no longer affect our immune system. Another breakthrough is the Hepatitis C drugs. However, for acute viral infections like flu or measles, experts say that no effective anti-viral drug has been developed that has been able to cure the disease completely.
This is because unlike bacteria, viruses become active only when they infiltrate a host cell. Therefore, what has been the most challenging part for drug developers is ensuring that their medicine does not affect the host cell too. Moreover, the tendency of the virus to mutate quickly also poses a major challenge in finding a cure.
WHO-approved medication for COVID-19 patients
The World Health Organisation (WHO) has approved the clinical trial results from the UK that showed dexamethasone to be a cure for patients who are critically ill with covid-19. The medication has shown to reduce mortality rate of patients on ventilators by one third. For patients requiring oxygen, mortality rate was cut by around one fifth. Dexamethasone has been used since the 1960s to reduce inflammation in several health conditions.
Which drugs are safe to consume for COVID-19 treatment?
Initially, the WHO recommended using acetaminophen for covid-19 patients to reduce fever and body pains however, it recently stated that even ibuprofen which is usually consumed to cure headaches, can be taken. Furthermore, chloroquine or hydroxychloroquine has also helped in stabilising the conditions of Covid-19 patients. Both of these medicines are primarily used to treat malaria and severe inflammatory diseases. However, while these drugs have been proven to prevent coronavirus infection, a clinical trial published in the New England Journal of Medicine says otherwise. Therefore, it is highly advised not to consume these medicines unless it is being prescribed by doctors or medical professionals.
Another drug that has received lots of attention in the recent times is remdesivir that is used to cure SARS, MERS and Ebola virus. The drug appears to be effective in preventing host cells from getting infected by the novel coronavirus though more studies are underway to confirm the same.
COVID-19 drugs available in India
Cipla Limited, an Indian multinational pharmaceutical and biotechnology company, has launched its own remedesivir under the name of Cipremi. The drug has been approved for adult and paediatric covid-19 patients but it is relatively more effective only for patients who need oxygen support. In addition to this, Fabiflu, developed by Glenmark Pharmaceuticals, has proven to be 80 to 88 percent effective and has undergone several clinical trials across Japan, Bangladesh and UAE. The drug, priced at around Rs 3500 for 34 tablets, is said to offer quick reduction in viral load and stabilise patients’ conditions in a matter of few days.
Besides these, Baba Ramdev’s Ayurvedic Company – Patanjali has recently claimed to have found a cure for coronavirus. The medicine – Coronil, has been prepared by the joint efforts of Patanjali Research Centre and NIMS and Ramdev said that it will help in treating respiratory diseases as well. However, Ministry of AYUSH denied to approve the claims and ordered the company not to stop advertising its claims until it is fully examined.