Repurposing Existing Drugs for the Treatment of COVID-19/SARS-CoV-2 Infection: A Review Describing Drug Mechanisms of Action

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Biochemical Pharmacology


The outbreak of a novel coronavirus (SARS-CoV-2) has caused a major public health concern across the globe. SARS-CoV-2 is the seventh coronavirus that is known to cause human disease. As of September 2020, SARS-CoV-2 has been reported in 213 countries and more than 31 million cases have been confirmed, with an estimated mortality rate of ∼3%. Unfortunately, a drug or vaccine is yet to be discovered to treat COVID-19. Thus, repurposing of existing cancer drugs will be a novel approach in treating COVID-19 patients. These drugs target viral replication cycle, viral entry and translocation to the nucleus. Some can enhance innate antiviral immune response as well. Hence this review focuses on comprehensive list of 22 drugs that work against COVID-19 infection. These drugs include fingolimod, colchicine, N4-hydroxycytidine, remdesivir, methylprednisone, oseltamivir, icatibant, perphanizine, viracept, emetine, homoharringtonine, aloxistatin, ribavirin, valrubicin, famotidine, almitrine, amprenavir, hesperidin, biorobin, cromolyn sodium, and antibodies- tocilzumab and sarilumab. Also, we provide a list of 31 drugs that are predicted to function against SARS-CoV-2 infection. In summary, we provide succinct overview of various therapeutic modalities. Among these 53 drugs, based on various clinical trials and literature, remdesivir, nelfinavir, methylpredinosolone, colchicine, famotidine and emetine may be used for COVID-19. Significance: It is of utmost important priority to develop novel therapies for COVID-19. Since the effect of SARS-CoV-2 is so severe, slowing the spread of diseases will help the health care system, especially the number of visits to Intensive Care Unit (ICU) of any country. Several clinical trials are in works around the globe. Moreover, NCI developed a recent and robust response to COVID-19 pandemic. One of the NCI's goals is to screen cancer related drugs for identification of new therapies for COVID-19.

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