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Coronavirus Drugs Already in the Pipeline

David Payne, Staff Economist, The Kiplinger Letter

What drugs will be available to treat COVID-19? Here's a quick rundown and a timeline for when to expect them. Note that these drugs have not been proven yet in trials of patients suffering from the novel coronavirus, and as such do not have official FDA approval, but they may still be helpful.

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A lot of attention has been paid to existing antimalarials (in the chloroquine family) or flu drugs (favipiravir)

The antimalarials are in short supply, but production is ramping up. Mylan (MYL) and Teva Pharmaceuticals (TEVA) plan to jump-start production of hydroxychloroquine, which is also approved for treating lupus or rheumatoid arthritis. Teva says it will donate 6 million doses of hydroxychloroquine sulfate tablets tablets through wholesalers to hospitals by March 31. We expect them to be widely available in mid-April.

Remdesivir has been studied for years as an experimental antiviral, most recently for its potential against Ebola. Doctors were throwing it against COVID-19 in a "try something" approach, to the point that demand led its manufacturer, Gilead (GILD), to limit its used to clinical trials. Six large studies are ongoing. The first should report results on April 3, the second in mid-April, and two more in May.

One side effect of COVID-19 is a so-called "cytokine storm," in which the virus causes the immune system to overreact. Actemra by Roche (RHHBY) and Kevzara, by Sanofi (SNY) and Regeneron (REGN), are existing arthritis drugs which may also be able to counter a cytokine storm. Currently available, but starting testing for COVID-19 use.

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Convalescent plasma, blood plasma from patients who have recovered from the virus, with their antibodies in it. Still in research, availability at least nine months away.

Artificial antibodies, which are similar to blood plasma but more consistent. Trials should begin in early summer, availability possible in the early fall. Companies working on this idea: Regeneron, Eli Lilly (LLY) with AbCellera, Vir Biotechnology (VIR), and Biogen (BIIB).

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