Putting Together a Search
Party for Better Covid-19 Treatments

Rena Conti

More than 100 generic drugs have the potential to help patients fight the coronavirus, but it will take a government push to do the right research.

Most of the public discussion about regaining our health and our wealth in the Covid-19 era is centered on the need for a vaccine. But vaccine development is expensive and highly uncertain. While we wait, people are dying and costs are piling up. More attention must be given to developing drugs to treat those who become ill.

Analysis I have done with colleagues Susan Athey (economics of technology professor, Stanford Graduate School of Business), Richard Frank (professor of health economics, Harvard Medical School) and Jonathan Gruber (Ford professor of economics, MIT) suggests the repurposing of generic drugs that have already been proved safe and effective in treating other diseases is an important part of the solution, and there is an urgent need for government support. More than 100 generic drug candidates have been identified as having promise to treat the symptoms of Covid-19. Some are already being tested for their effectiveness. A focus on repurposing generic drugs would give researchers more shots on goal in the game of drug discovery, improving the odds that a winning treatment will emerge.

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