Pharmacotherapies for coronavirus patients have developed rapidly in 2020–2021, and new antivirals are expected to enter the market.
When the coronavirus pandemic started, there were no effective medicines or other cures available. Those who fell seriously ill were put on supplementary oxygen or ventilators until the disease had run its course and they began to recover.
Today, there are several medications available for treating coronavirus patients:
- blood thinners to prevent clotting
- anti-inflammatories such as dexamethasone or other glucocorticoids, tocilizumab and anakinra
- antivirals, the first to be deployed being remdesivir
Other medications used include fever reducers and cough medicines such as suppressants, expectorants and bronchodilators. Antimicrobials may also be used if the patient has a bacterial infection in addition to a viral infection.
Blood thinners brought significant improvement to care
Quite soon after the start of the pandemic, it was discovered that coronavirus infections tend to cause blood clots, sometimes leading to life-threatening pulmonary embolisms. Hospitalized patients were put on blood thinners as of April 2020. The provision of blood thinner medication for patients in home care but belonging to at-risk groups for thrombosis was organized together with local authorities around New Year 2021.
“Starting at-risk patients on blood thinners brought a significant improvement to their care,” says Minna Bäcklund, Head of Intensive Care and Pain Medicine.
Anti-inflammatories were introduced in the care of coronavirus patients in autumn 2020. They dampen the infection and prevent or treat the related lung damage. The principal effective ingredient in these medications is cortisone. Other anti-inflammatories may also be considered.
“Overall, anti-inflammatories have improved the condition of hospitalized patients and helped reduce the inflammation reactions prompted by infections in many patients,” says Paula Kauppi, Head of Pulmonary Diseases.
Antivirals that prevent the replication of viruses are also in the pipeline; remdesivir is already on the market. New antivirals are expected to be made available during spring 2022.