Repurposing existing drugs for COVID-19: an endocrinology perspective.


Coronavirus Disease 2019 (COVID-19) is a multi-systemic infection caused by the novel Severe Acute Respiratory Syndrome Coronavirus 2 (SARS-CoV-2), that has become a pandemic. Although its prevailing symptoms include anosmia, ageusia, dry couch, fever, shortness of brief, arthralgia, myalgia, and fatigue, regional and methodological assessments vary, leading to heterogeneous clinical descriptions of COVID-19. Aging, uncontrolled diabetes, hypertension, obesity, and exposure to androgens have been correlated with worse prognosis in COVID-19. Abnormalities in the renin-angiotensin-aldosterone system (RAAS), angiotensin-converting enzyme-2 (ACE2) and the androgen-driven transmembrane serine protease 2 (TMPRSS2) have been elicited as key modulators of SARS-CoV-2. While safe and effective therapies for COVID-19 lack, the current moment of pandemic urges for therapeutic options. Existing drugs should be preferred over novel ones for clinical testing due to four inherent characteristics: 1. Well-established long-term safety profile, known risks and contraindications; 2. More accurate predictions of clinical effects; 3. Familiarity of clinical management; and 4. Affordable costs for public health systems. In the context of the key modulators of SARS-CoV-2 infectivity, endocrine targets have become central as candidates for COVID-19. The only endocrine or endocrine-related drug class with already existing emerging evidence for COVID-19 is the glucocorticoids, particularly for the use of dexamethasone for severely affected patients. Other drugs that are more likely to present clinical effects despite the lack of specific evidence for COVID-19 include anti-androgens (spironolactone, eplerenone, finasteride and dutasteride), statins, N-acetyl cysteine (NAC), ACE inhibitors (ACEi), angiotensin receptor blockers (ARB), and direct TMPRSS-2 inhibitors (nafamostat and camostat). Several other candidates show less consistent plausibility. In common, except for dexamethasone, all candidates have no evidence for COVID-19, and clinical trials are needed. While dexamethasone may reduce mortality in severely ill patients with COVID-19, in the absence of evidence of any specific drug for mild-to-moderate COVID-19, researchers should consider testing existing drugs due to their favorable safety, familiarity, and cost profile. However, except for dexamethasone in severe COVID-19, drug treatments for COVID-19 patients must be restricted to clinical research studies until efficacy has been extensively proven, with favorable outcomes in terms of reduction in hospitalization, mechanical ventilation, and death.

In BMC endocrine disorders
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