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We've got a new drug? (for COVID!)

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  • #61
    Originally posted by TheLurch View Post
    New drug #2 has been announced! This one's from Pfizer, and it uses a different mechanism of action from the Merck drug. The only clinical data on it comes from a company press release, but it sounds fantastic: given to high risk patients, it dropped hospitalizations and deaths by roughly 90%. Because it uses a different mechanism, there's no reason the two drugs couldn't be given simultaneously — it's likely they'd have an additive effect.

    While the clinical data hasn't been released, Pfizer did just publish a paper describing the drug's history. It was originally developed to target the original SARS-CoV-1 virus. Specifically, it targets a protease (protein-cutting enzyme) encoded by the virus that's needed to activate a few of the viruses proteins (some of the virus' genes encode a single, long protein that needs to be cut into multiple smaller pieces, each of which performs different functions). The drug is a big complicated molecule that's a combination of stretches that look like linked amino acids that the protease would target, but embedded in a chemical context that keeps the protease from digesting them.

    The original version of the drug fell in the typical category of "works great in a test tube, but won't work as a pill". It didn't cross cell membranes easily, and wasn't absorbed in the digestive system. It took crafting and testing multiple chemical relatives to get something that was effective in pill form. If you've ever wondered why drug development is expensive, hiring enough experienced chemists to do that sort of thing is one part of the reasons.

    One positive feature of this drug is that it appears to be able to bind to the proteases of many related viruses, so could be effective against emerging threats.
    Great news if it holds up. Obviously people would prefer independent labs confirming Pfizer's results rather than just Pfizer telling us that a Pfizer drug did well in a Pfizer test.

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