Pharmacological therapies against COVID-19 : state of the art, between hopes and disappointments

Link to article at PubMed

Rev Med Liege. 2020 Sup;75(S1):162-169.


The COVID-19 outbreak has raised numerous attempts of diverse pharmacological interventions to improve the prognosis of the infection, especially among hospitalized patients due to an acute respiratory distress syndrome (ARDS). Initially, these interventions used known medications capable to directly target SARS-CoV-2 by investigating several antiviral therapies already applied with some success in other viral infections. Among them remdesivir appears to be the most promising drug against SARS-CoV-2. Then, owing to the deleterious impact of the cytokine storm, medications that more specifically inhibit proinflammatory cytokines (especially interleukin-1 and interleukin-6) were tested. Hydroxychloroquine, sometines combined with azithromycin, has benefited for a while from a media buzz. However, hopes initially founded in all such drugs turned into disappointments because the specificities of SARS-CoV-2 make this virus resistant to most pharmacological interventions. Only glucocorticoids, dexamethasone and hydrocortisone, were associated with a significant reduction in mortality of patients with ARDS due to COVID-19, most probably via non-specific anti-inflammatory effects. These corticosteroids are currently recommended by the World Health Organisation. An intensive research is ongoing worldwide to find effective combined therapies or innovative drugs which could unequivocally improve the prognosis of COVID-19 at the different stages of the infection.


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