We are following the news as it relates to products being created to combat the Covid-19 pandemic. This include development of new drug therapies to treat symptoms of the disease (and potentially reduce the risk of death), vaccines to prevent getting the disease in the first place, and diagnostics (i.e., tests) to understand if a person has the Covid-19 or has developed immunity after having been exposed to the disease. Some of these products are being developed “from scratch,” while others are already approved therapies for other conditions and are being assessed to understand how they might treat Covid-19.
What’s important to understand is that each of these products must be tested thoroughly to ensure safety for use in all types of patients affected by a disease, including adults, children, infants, and persons who are managing other conditions (i.e., have comorbidities). Some of these tests occur in a laboratory, while others are done as clinical trials. We may learn that some therapies are safe and work very well for some patients but are less safe or effective in others.
Additionally, the development process for drug therapies in particular requires time. Time is necessary to not only figure out all that is needed to create the product, but also to assess how effective the product is at doing what it’s intended to do, and to understand what side effects might result from its use. This is even the case for products that have already received regulatory safety approval for another condition (i.e., has another indication). In times of global crisis, there is an opportunity to move more quickly than usual; however, the safety of the population at large is the priority. The Food and Drug Administration (FDA) has developed a useful infographic on the drug development process:
There are many research scientists, public health professionals, manufacturers and health care providers working around the world to develop all the products we will need to combat Covid-19, and understand their effects. We salute them all!
Yours in health,
Fanta Waterman PhD, MPH