Pharmacological treatment of COVID-19: lights and shadows

Francesco Menzella MD, Mirella Biava Msc, Chiara Barbieri MD, Francesco Livrieri MD, Nicola Facciolongo MD


At the end of December 2019, a novel coronavirus, the severe acute respiratory syndrome coronavirus 2, caused an outbreak of pneumonia spreading from Wuhan, Hubei province, to the whole country of China and then the entire world, forcing the World Health Organization to make the assessment that the coronavirus disease (COVID-19) can be characterized as a pandemic, the first ever caused by a coronavirus. To date, clinical evidence and guidelines based on reliable data and randomized clinical trials for the treatment of COVID-19 are lacking. In the absence of definitive management protocols, many treatments for COVID-19 are currently being evaluated and tested worldwide. Some of these options were soon abandoned due to ineffectiveness, while others showed promising results. The basic treatments are mainly represented by antiviral drugs, even if the evidence is not satisfactory. Among the antivirals, the most promising appears to be remdesivir. Corticosteroids and tocilizumab seem to guarantee positive results in selected patients so far, although the timing of starting therapy and the most appropriate therapeutic schemes remain to be clarified. Efficacy of the other drugs is still uncertain, and they are currently used as a cocktail of treatments in the absence of definitive guidelines. What will represent the real solution to the enormous problem taking place worldwide is the identification of a safe and effective vaccine, for which enormous efforts and investments are underway.

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Menzella F, Biava M, Barbieri C, Livrieri F, Facciolongo N. Pharmacological treatment of COVID-19: lights and shadows. Drugs in Context 2020; 9: 2020-4-6. DOI: 10.7573/dic.2020-4-6

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