Repurposing existing drugs for COVID-19 a more rapid alternative to a vaccine

Repurposing existing medicines focused on known drug targets is likely to offer a more rapid hope of tackling COVID-19 than developing and manufacturing a vaccine, argue an international team of scientists in the British Journal of Pharmacology.

While we're waiting for a vaccine, drugs currently being used to treat other illnesses can be investigated as treatments for COVID-19 – in other words repurposed,” said lead author Dr Steve Alexander from the University of Nottingham. “There’s unlikely to be a single magic bullet – we will probably need several drugs in our armoury, some that will need be used in combination with others. The important thing is that these drugs are cheap to produce and easy to manufacture. That way, we can ensure access to affordable drugs across the globe, not just for wealthier nations.”

The team argue that we need to move rapidly to identify existing drugs that are effective in clinical trials so that we can begin treating patients quickly. In addition, the team says that time is of the essence as cases are likely to fall during the summer meaning there will be fewer people who can be recruited to clinical trials ahead of a potential second wave of the virus.


Alexander, SPH, et al.A rational roadmap for SARS-CoV-2/COVID-19 pharmacotherapeutic research and development. British Journal of Pharmacology; 1 May 2020; DOI: 10.1111/bph.15094