University of Arizona inches closer to a new COVID-19 treatment

That may soon be a thing of the past as researchers at the University of Arizona work toward the approval of a new COVID-19 treatment.
Published: Mar. 1, 2023 at 4:27 PM MST
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TUCSON, Ariz. (13 News) - According to the Arizona Department of Health Services, more than four million Arizonans have been diagnosed with the coronavirus since the start of the pandemic and, up until now, there has only been one medication available to help treat people who have it.

That may soon be a thing of the past as researchers at the University of Arizona work toward the approval of a new COVID-19 treatment.

According to Dr. Greg Thatcher, a professor of Pharmacology and Toxicology at the Coit College of Pharmacy at the University of Arizona, scientists with the university have been developing and measuring the effectiveness of a new COVID-19 antiviral new drug.

“It might sound like the pandemic is winding down but we only ever had one antiviral that was designed for SARS-COVID-2,” Thatcher says.

Right now PFizer’s Paxlovid is the only antiviral drug that is available for people diagnosed with the coronavirus.

Although the drug has already kept millions from severe illness and hospitalizations from COVID-19, researchers at the UA believe adding another defense in this fight could save even more lives.

“It’s better for a physician to have multiple options to have multiple weapons that he or she can use to treat patients,” Thatcher said.

This idea is what Sunshine BioPharma, a pharmaceutical company the university has been working with, hopes to prove.

Dr. Thatcher says a new antiviral medication could be beneficial in not only dealing with the current pandemic but from preventing others.

“With viruses that mutate rapidly like this one and like most other viruses it’s going to be essential to have more than one,” Dr. Thatcher said.

Thatcher says viruses like HIV and Hepatitis C have taught us that combining multiple antiviral drugs is the best approach for treatment.

“If you are hitting multiple parts of the virus at once, it can’t escape,” Thatcher said.

The new medication will work differently than the current treatment available, which Thatcher says is beneficial for those on the front lines.

“If you can combine the two, and maybe you can combine another drug that hits another target so now you have three antivirals hitting different targets in the virus,” Thatcher tells 13 News. “That is going to be very powerful.”

According to Thatcher even though we are nearing the end of the pandemic there is still so much we don’t know about the virus. That’s why he believes it’s important to build on what we have already learned.

“Even though the pandemic next year, hopefully, people might forget about it in a year or two but forgetting about it isn’t necessarily the best thing,” Thatcher said.

Dr. Thatcher expects they’ll know by the end of the year if this approach will work. If this method proves to be successful, they hope to be in clinical trials by next year.