As of this writing, COVID-19, a highly infectious and pernicious respiratory disease caused by the novel coronavirus (SARS-CoV-2), is the leading cause of death in the U.S. It is disconcerting and perplexing to millions of Americans that the deadly SARS-CoV-2 pathogen once unfamiliar to humans has rapidly become a global calamity afflicting U.S. health care system and scourging Americans’ quality of life.
Hopefully, COVID-19 will not retain its notoriety for long. Through mandatory practical measures and social distancing, we are “flattening the curve” and reducing COVID-19 positive cases and fatalities. With confidence, our economy will reopen and our daily life will resume to normalcy. However, we must realize and accept that full restoration of regular daily routine is contingent upon the vanquishment of the SARS-CoV-2 pathogen by newly developed antivirals or vaccines.
The positive outlook is that these pharmacological advancements are on the way. For instance, Gilead Sciences’ injectable antiviral drug, remdesivir, which was initially developed to treat Ebola, was administered to over 100 hospitalized patients with severe COVID-19 symptoms.
Although the results from a recent clinical trial conducted by Gilead Sciences are not conclusive due to the absence of a control group, the excitement in the medical field is high, and it feels relieved to know that rays of hope are at the horizon.
As a pharmacist, I, however, must advise caution. In the coming days, American people will hear from the social media about “promising but still-unproven” pharmacotherapies for COVID-19. It is essential and helpful, in my opinion, for the general public to understand that the drug development process takes time. From the pharmacological research and development standpoint, once a new drug discovery has been made, it must go through a series of lengthy, complicated processes involving both preclinical and clinical research trials.
Realistically speaking, on average, it takes approximately 10 years for a newly discovered experimental pharmaceutical compound to become commercially available in the pharmacies throughout the U.S. Rigorous FDA-mandatory testing of the investigational pharmaceutical compound in humans during a series of clinical trials is conducted to ensure optimal safety and efficacy.
With respect to the new drug development and approval process, it is imperative that the general public realizes the life-threatening dangers of consuming FDA-unapproved medications due to lack of safety and efficacy surveillance. In other words, taking “promising but still-unproven” medications not undergoing clinical trials is not advisable.
U.S. scientists are working diligently and strenuously, striving to identify COVID-19 pharmacological treatments and vaccines from existing candidate pharmaceutical compounds. Pharmaceutical manufacturing is gearing up, ready to produce large quantities of safe and effective antivirals or vaccines.
With our continued strong support of our elected leaders in Congress, U.S. domestic biopharmaceutical innovators will discover a way to defeat COVID-19. Personally, I look forward to dispensing the soon-to-be-discovered life-saving COVID-19 vaccine and the new U.S.-made antiviral medication. Meanwhile, with the deepest gratitude, I would like to say “thank you” to all the U.S. scientists and researchers for working incessantly to discover a cure for COVID-19. Most importantly, I would also like to recognize the sacrifices health care professionals (physicians, nurses, pharmacists) and first responders make every day, especially during the COVID-19 pandemic, caring for the severely ill COVID-19 patients.