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Infectious Diseases

Updated 03 June 2020

More than 100 off-label and experimental treatments currently being used for Covid-19

As no specific treatment for Covid-19 exists, researchers started a large review to look at all the medicines currently used around the world to treat the disease.

  • Researchers have listed the treatments being used for Covid-19
  • Many drugs are being repurposed and are considered "off-label"
  • The scientists say taking stock of treatments is vital in the fight against Covid-19


As experts around the world are trying to find an effective treatment for Covid-19, many clinicians are using existing drugs that have already been approved to treat other diseases, in the hope that these would make a difference.

When an existing drug is repurposed for another disease, it is referred to as being used “off-label”.  During the past months, Health24 reported extensively on various drugs being investigated for the treatment of Covid-19, including the Solidarity Trial launched by the World Health Organization in March 2020. 

Now, researchers from the Perelman School of Medicine at the University of Pennsylvania have catalogued every known off-label effort by various clinicians since the start of the outbreak.

In this process, the researchers have recorded more than 100 different off-label treatments, according to the news release.

What is the purpose of this research?

Why take time to catalogue different medicines used for Covid-19 instead of researching a new one?

The project is named Covid-19 Registry of Off-label & New Agent (CORONA) and serves as an inventory of what is already being used, and to see if any of the treatments should require further investigation in a randomised trial.

The research was published in Infectious Disease and Therapy on 27 May 2020.

According to David C. Fajgenbaum, an assistant professor of Translational Medicine & Human Genetics and director of the Center for Cytokine Storm Treatment & Laboratory (CSTL), this “stocktake” of existing medicines is vital in the fight against Covid-19. He is the lead author of the study.

"We can't win this fight if we don't take stock of the tools that are already being used and search for new ones that could be effective. While off-label use is happening all over the world, there's currently no system in place to track it, so we felt like we had to create one," Fajgenbaum stated in the news release.

What did the study find?

The research team performed a systematic literature review on 2 700 published papers on Covid-19 treatments worldwide.

Then, the researchers gathered data on 9 152 patients and found that doctors tried 115 drugs, which the researchers then categorised according to type.

The most common type of medicine used was existing antivirals, followed by antibacterials and corticosteroids. The research also showed that clinicians used immunosuppressants and blood substitutes in some cases.

Will this research help us find a successful treatment?

Fajgenbaum emphasises in a news statement that the purpose of the research is not to look for the most effective existing treatment, but to create a source for other researchers that wish to investigate one of these.

Further research will be required to prioritise drugs specifically for Covid-19.

Image credit: Unsplash by Freestock