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Explainer: What Are the Two Drugs Used For COVID-19?

There are only two drugs used for COVID-19 patients right now — Ivermectin is not one of them.

With the spike in COVID-19 cases in the National Capital Region (NCR)+ bubble, hospitals are becoming overwhelmed and a good percentage of them are now almost at full capacity.

New patients, both COVID or non-COVID, can no longer be accommodated in emergency rooms and admitted to hospitals due to the recent surge in cases. (LIST: Metro Manila Hospitals With Available COVID ICU Beds)

But apart from this, hospitals are facing yet another issue: medications for the treatment of the novel coronavirus are running out.

As a response, the Central Visayas region has decided to give NCR+ supplies of Remdesivir and Tocilizumab, both medications used for COVID-19. This is on top of the manpower assistance they will be providing the region.

But what exactly are these medications and what do they do for patients with COVID-19? My Pope Philippines investigates!

COVID-19 Medication: Remdesivir

remdesivir-and-tocilizumab-for-covid-19
Remdesivir was originally developed as a treatment for Ebola and hepatitis C. (Photo from Sascha Steinbach/EPA/Shutterstock/The New York Times)

Remdesivir is an antiviral medication that stops the virus— in this case, the SARS-COV2 (responsible for COVID-19)— from spreading in the body. It is an injected medication for patients who are 12 years old and older, and weigh 40kg and above. Remdesivir is injected intravenously (through a vein) once a day, for five to 10 days depending on a patient’s response to it.

This means that up to 10 doses of the medication will solely be allocated to a single patient. Imagine how much Remdevisir we’d need for the 100,000 plus active cases the Philippines currently has— that’s around one million doses that need to be readied in hospitals. (Read: Meet the First Three Individuals to Receive COVID-19 Vaccine in the PH)

COVID-19 Medication: Tocilizumab

remdesivir-and-tocilizumab-for-covid-19
Courses of tocilizumab, above, and sarilumab cost between £750 and £1,000 per patient compared to one night’s stay on an intensive care ward, which is about £1,800 (Photo from Pascal Rossignol/Reuters/Financial Times)

Tocilizumab is a medication injected intravenously to help relieve symptoms of rheumatoid arthritis, giant cell arteritis, and other conditions. Its main purpose is to block a certain receptor in our body responsible for causing inflammation.

But in the context of COVID-19, researchers found that Tocilizumab cuts death rates of patients with severe COVID-19 by a third to half. The medication also helps reduce the likelihood of patients being connected to a ventilator or even die due to the novel coronavirus.

Gentle Reminder: The Food and Drug Administration (FDA) says the drug ‘Ivermectin’ should not be used when treating COVID-19, contrary to what Anakalusugan Rep. Mike Defensor says. “There is no conclusive data at this time to show that Ivermectin is effective in treating COVID-19. It is an anti-parasitic drug,” says FDA Director Eric Domingo.

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