NewsHillsborough County


Old drugs used to treat malaria, flu, ebola showing promise against COVID-19

Old drugs mean new hope in fight against COVID-19
Posted at 8:35 PM, Mar 19, 2020
and last updated 2020-03-19 23:20:03-04

As we sprint to find a vaccine to stop COVID-19, old therapies might buy us some time.

"It's great news," Dr. Michael Teng, USF Associate Professor of Internal Medicine at Morsani College of Medicine, told ABC Action News reporter Michael Paluska. "It seems to have some effect in blocking the virus."

Scientists across the globe are testing numerous drugs to find out their effectiveness.


An old anti-malarial drug called Hydroxychloroquine is just one of many drugs being repurposed in an attempt to treat the surge in COVID-19 cases in the U.S., and the drug Remesdeivir used to treat Ebola.

But, while the drugs are being used in clinical trials and some limited cases as off-label experimental use -- the FDA has not officially endorsed any as safe and effective against COVID-19, saying more data and study is needed before making a decision.

"Those are two that are out now, essentially approved for prescribed use," President Donald Trump said of the antiviral drug Remsdesivir, which has never been approved by the FDA for any disease. The drug chloroquine, which has only been approved to treat malaria and some arthritis -- neither is approved for COVID-19.

"The problem with a lot of our antiviral drugs is they are very specific for a very particular virus," Teng said. "What this drug does is targets your natural cells and a cellular process that the virus seems to need in order for it to get into your cells and affect you."

"And I think it's going to be very exciting. I think it could be a game-changer. And maybe not. Maybe not, but I think it could be, based on what I see, it could be a game-changer. Very powerful, they're very powerful," Trump said.


FDA Commissioner Steven Hahn clarified the president's remarks, saying they are still looking at data around numerous drugs to determine if they can be used to treat COVID-19, saying that even if drugs show promise, they need to determine the right dosage and the best time for it to be administered safely.