See the latest update: New Study Finds Metformin May Lower Mortality Risk for COVID-19 (July 2020)
Two new studies suggest that dozens of drugs already approved for use in the United States, including the diabetes drug metformin, may prove effective against the coronavirus, COVID-19. Repurposing these FDA-approved drugs could be a fast way to get treatment to patients.
Today, “there is no specific medicine recommended to prevent or treat the new coronavirus,” according to the World Health Organization (WHO). “Some specific treatments are under investigation and will be tested through clinical trials,” the WHO said, according to the Washington Post.
As COVID-19 sickens hundreds of thousands, the race is on to find a drug that might help save severely ill patients. But even with rapid government approval, it could take months to develop new drugs from scratch that might be effective against the virus.
The World Health Organization is conducting computer modeling studies on certain drugs already approved by the FDA. The results showed that the most promising drugs included several antiviral drugs, including darunavir, nelfinavir, and saquinavir – and several other types of drugs, including the ACE inhibitor moexipril; the chemotherapy drugs daunorubicin and mitoxantrone; the painkiller metamizole; the antihistamine bepotastine; and the antimalarial drug atovaquone. Another promising candidate is the cholesterol-lowering statin rosuvastatin.
A second study was done at the University of California, San Francisco. It found that nearly 70 drugs, some already approved, might prove effective against the novel coronavirus. They just published their findings on the web site bioRxiv. In this effort, the researchers took a deep dive into the genetic makeup of the novel coronavirus, focusing on critical proteins the virus uses to hijack the genetic machinery of a human host cell. The coronavirus uses the cell’s protein to manufacture millions of copies of itself. The researchers looked at drugs that target the same human cellular proteins that the virus also targets during its invasion of the host cell. They uncovered 24 drugs already approved by the FDA for use against a range of diseases, such as cancer, Parkinson’s disease and high blood pressure. Also on the list were certain antibiotics, metformin, the go-to drug for type 2 diabetes; the schizophrenia drug haloperidol; and the malaria drug chloroquine. Trials are being planned by the WHO and the state of New York.
Update: July 4, 2020: New Study Finds Metformin May Lower Mortality Risk for COVID-19
Studies have shown that type 2 diabetes (T2DM) and obesity are significant risks for mortality in COVID-19. Now, according to a new study published by MedRxiv, women who were taking metformin had a 21% to 24% lower risk of dying from COVID-19, compared to men and those who didn’t take the drug, based on data from 6,200 hospitalized COVID-19 patients. The study also found that metformin lowered C-reactive protein levels twice as much in women as in men. Metformin has sex specific immunomodulatory effects which may elucidate treatment mechanisms in COVID-19.
“We know that metformin has different effects on men and women,” study coauthor Carolyn Bramante of the University of Minnesota said, adding that “In the diabetes prevention trial, metformin reduced CRP (the inflammation marker C-reactive protein) twice as much in women as men.” Metformin also decreases levels of TNF-alpha, an inflammation protein that appears to make COVID-19 worse, she said. “The fact that we saw the benefit in women only, and the fact that metformin lowers TNF-alpha in female mice, might suggest that the TNF-alpha effects of metformin are why it helps in COVID-19.”
This small study has not yet been peer-reviewed. MedRxiv