Could a daily pill become the biggest catalyst to finally ending the pandemic?


Toledo Blade 24 September, 2021 - 04:38pm 38 views

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SEATTLE — The Minnesota Vikings are hosting Seattle for the first time at U.S. Bank Stadium on Sunday.

The Vikings haven't beaten the Seahawks in seven matchups since 2009. Russell Wilson has been the quarterback for the Seahawks in each of those games.

Minnesota lost in Seattle in each of the last three seasons.

The Seahawks are 1-1 after losing 33-30 in overtime last week to Tennessee. The Vikings are 0-2 after losing 34-33 in Arizona last week when new kicker Greg Joseph missed a 37-yard field goal on the final play.

Seahawks wide receiver Tyler Lockett has become one of just six players to have at least one touchdown of 60 yards or more in each of the first two games of a season. He’s the first to do it since Steve Smith in 2007.

Lockett could join another elite list with a big game this week against the Vikings. The Seahawks said only Randy Moss, Jerry Rice, Marvin Harrison and Dwight Clark have had 100 yards receiving and a touchdown in three straight games to start a season.

Lockett is in second place for most receiving yards this season with 278. He's only four yards behind leader Deebo Samuel. Lockett is also tied for second for most receiving touchdowns with three.

The Vikings are used to star running back Dalvin Cook fighting through injuries. Cook, the team's offensive focal point, demonstrated his toughness again in another physically punishing effort in Arizona.

Cook left the field twice because of separate injuries but finished with 131 yards on 22 carries in the 34-33 loss. He has left games against the Seahawks because of injuries each of the past two seasons.

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Three pharma cos in race to find COVID-19 treatment pill; results likely by 2021-end

Business Today 31 December, 1969 - 06:00pm

Currently, in clinical trials, the results are expected by this year-end. The three contenders in the race are Pfizer and its rivals, Merck & Co Inc and Swiss pharmaceutical Roche Holding AG.

The medication being produced by Merck & Co. and Ridgeback Biotherapeutics is called molnupiravir, while two other candidates in the works are PF-07321332, and AT-527 by Pfizer and Roche and Atea Pharmaceuticals.

Thus far, only one antiviral drug, remdesivir, has been granted approval to treat COVID. However, it is administered intravenously to patients ill enough to be hospitalised, and is also not intended for early and broad use.

On September 1, Pfizer Inc and Merck & Co Inc announced new trials of their experimental oral antiviral drugs for Covid-19 as the race to develop an easy-to-administer treatment for the potentially fatal illness heats up.

Pfizer said its latest mid-to-late-stage trial will enroll 1,140 non-hospitalised adults diagnosed with coronavirus infection who are not at risk of severe illness. Patients in the trial will be given Pfizer's pill, known as PF-07321332, and a low dose of ritonavir, an older medication widely used in combination treatments for HIV infection.

Pfizer's drug is designed to block the activity of a key enzyme that is needed for the coronavirus to multiply.

Merck said its new trial will study experimental drug molnupiravir for the prevention of Covid-19 among adults in the same household as someone diagnosed with symptomatic coronavirus infection.

Merck and partner Ridgeback Biotherapeutics are already conducting a late-stage trial of the treatment in non-hospitalised patients to see if it reduces the risk of hospitalisation or death.

Molnupiravir is a type of antiviral designed to introduce errors into the RNA of the virus that eventually prevents it from replicating.

Pfizer began in July a different trial of PF-07321332 in adults with Covid-19 infection who are at high risk of becoming severely ill due to underlying health conditions such as diabetes.

The company said it expects initial results from that study sometime this fall. Rivals Pfizer and Merck, along with Swiss pharmaceutical Roche Holding AG, have made the most progress in developing what would be the first antiviral pill to treat, or possibly prevent, Covid-19.

Roche and partner Atea Pharmaceuticals in June said early data from a trial of their experimental oral antiviral AT-527 showed that it lowered viral load in hospitalised patients.

Merck said in June that the US government agreed to pay about $1.2 billion for 1.7 million courses of molnupiravir, if it is proven to work and authorised by regulators. The company said it expected to file for US emergency use authorisation of molnupiravir in the second half of 2021 at the earliest.

Scientists: Daily Covid pills could just be months away

Dhaka Tribune 26 September, 2021 - 10:10am

But the pills will not be a substitute for the vaccines

A daily pill to treat Covid-19 could just be months away, according to scientists working with the clinical trials of the drugs.

Clinical trials for at least antiviral drugs are underway in an effort to find a course of treatment that could halt the coronavirus early in its course.

According to US-based news portal Kaiser Health News (KHN), the drugs under trial are a short-term regimen of daily pills that can fight the virus early after diagnosis and conceivably prevent symptoms from developing after exposure.

“Oral antivirals have the potential to not only curtail the duration of one’s Covid-19 syndrome but also have the potential to limit transmission to people in your household if you are sick,” said Timothy Sheahan, a virologist at the University of North Carolina-Chapel Hill who has helped pioneer the therapies, reports KHN.

Antivirals are already essential treatments for other viral infections, including hepatitis C and HIV. Although the medications developed to treat and prevent viral infections in people and animals, work differently, they can be engineered to boost the immune system to fight infection, block receptors so viruses cannot enter healthy cells or lower the amount of active virus in the body.

Also Read - WHO backs antibody treatment for high-risk Covid patients

At least three promising antivirals for Covid-19 are being tested in clinical trials, with results expected as soon as late fall or winter, KHN quoted Carl Dieffenbach, director of the Division of AIDS at the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases, as saying. 

“I think that we will have answers as to what these pills are capable of within the next several months,” said Dieffenbach, who is overseeing the antiviral development.

Miranda Kelly, a nursing assistant, and her husband, who reside in Seattle, participated in a clinical trial being conducted by Fred Hutchinson Cancer Research Center.

The couple took four pills twice a day and even though unaware of whether they received the actual medication or placebo, they reported their symptoms getting better. They recovered within two weeks.

“I don’t know if we got the treatment, but I kind of feel like we did,” Kelly told KHN. 

“To have all these underlying conditions, I felt like the recovery was very quick,” she added.

According to Dieffenbach, the medication from Merck & Co and Ridgeback Biotherapeutics, called molnupiravir, is a top contender among the drugs under trial.

The other two are from Pfizer, known as PF-07321332 and AT-527, an antiviral produced by Roche and Atea Pharmaceuticals.

Also Read - Covid will end up resembling common cold, says Oxford vaccine creator

Until now, remdesivir is the only antiviral approved to treat the coronavirus and that too is administered intravenously to patients who are ill enough to be hospitalised.

However, its limitations include not being intended for early use while the drugs under trials are being floated as packaged pills.

Timothy Sheahan, who also carried out preclinical work on remdesivir, led an early study in mice that showed that molnupiravir could prevent early disease caused by SARS-CoV-2, the virus that causes Covid-19. The formula was discovered at Emory University and later acquired by Ridgeback and Merck.

Clinical trials have followed, including an early trial of 202 participants last spring that showed that molnupiravir rapidly reduced the levels of infectious virus.

According to Merck Chief Executive Robert Davis, the company expects data from its larger Phase 3 trials in the coming weeks, with the potential to seek emergency use authorization from the Food and Drug Administration “before year-end.”

Meanwhile, Pfizer launched a combined Phase 2 and 3 trial of its product on September 1, and Atea officials said they expect results from Phase 2 and Phase 3 trials later this year.

Also Read - Global Covid cases top 230 million

If the results are positive and emergency use is granted for any product, Dieffenbach said: “distribution could begin quickly.”

That would mean millions of people soon could have access to a daily orally administered medication, ideally a single pill, that could be taken for five to 10 days at the first confirmation of Covid-19 infection.

The antiviral pills, however, would not be a substitute for vaccination, says Dr Daniel Griffin, an infectious diseases and immunology expert at Columbia University.

Saying the pills would be another tool to fight Covid-19, she added: “It’s nice to have another option.”

Also Read - OP-ED: Can a new oral anti-viral for Covid make a difference?

According to Griffin, if the antiviral pills prove effective, the next challenge will be to ramp up a distribution system that can rush them to people as soon as they test positive, reports KHN.

Moreover, studies are also evaluating whether the antivirals can prevent infection after exposure. The antiviral drug is are another ray of hope for life to return to normal.

In June, the US government announced that it had agreed to obtain about 1.7 million treatment courses of Merck’s molnupiravir, at a cost of $1.2 billion, given that the product receives emergency authorization or full approval. 

The Biden administration also said it would invest $3.2 billion in the Antiviral Program for Pandemics, which aims to develop antivirals for the Covid-19 crisis and beyond.

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Bears QB Justin Fields, complete with photographic memory, debuts as starter in Week 3

Dhaka Tribune 26 September, 2021 - 05:30am

Quincy Avery has been working with Justin Fields since the quarterback was in high school. And when asked how ready the new Bears starter is for his debut, what comes to mind isn't anything from on the football field.

"In 11th grade, we get this Elite 11 playbook full of NFL concepts," recalled Avery, the well-regarded QB trainer who runs QB Takeover. "And Justin basically taught it to himself. A week and a half later, he had memorized it front to back and could run things both ways. He could flip the formation. He knew the protections for each concept… and I'd never seen someone so young be able to do that. And he's only elevated that."

Thanks to a bone bruise suffered by starter Andy Dalton, the highly touted first-round rookie -- for whom Chicago traded up to No. 11 -- will start. Coach Matt Nagy was clear that it is Dalton's job when healthy. And he wouldn't get into what he called "the what-if game."

"Justin is worried about trying to help us beat Cleveland," Nagy said earlier this week. "I don't really want to go there other than just saying when Andy is healthy, he's our starter."

If Fields lights up the Browns defense today, the questions will linger. A good problem to have, to be sure. It's not a total debut, as Fields played snaps in each of the first two games. One source described several "wow" moments in practice, too. But his first start is noteworthy, and Fields said, "I know I'm meant for this."

Quincy, who knows Fields as well as anyone, believes it.

"I think mentally, Justin is as ready as any rookie can be," Avery said. "He's got a really good grasp of the offense and he can process as well as anyone. Really excited about him as a starting QB."

Fields is more mobile than Dalton, and it would make sense if the offense this week allowed him to move a bit. That's what Avery wants to see. To give Fields the opportunity to get outside the tackles and make a play.

"We already know Justin is one of the most athletic people on the field every time he steps on it," Avery said. "Outside the pocket, he can really stress a defense. That's what really separates him, being able to get those explosive plays, dynamic plays."

As for advice, Fields doesn't need much.

"It's really just, be yourself," Avery said. "I have no doubt he's done everything he needs to do. He's going to do a fantastic job."

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