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Ravina Barrett

Drug treatment for COVID-19 could come before vaccine

The University of Brighton’s Senior Lecturer in Pharmacy Practice Ravina Barrett believes existing drugs could help tackle coronavirus – but warns there’s no ‘magic bullet’.

In the week in which the UK Government claimed a potential vaccine could be deployed to 30 million UK citizens by September, Mrs Barrett, who is currently volunteering as a medical research ethicist for the Health Research Authority, which provides ethical approval for all coronavirus studies in the UK, has suggested existing drugs could well provide a temporary answer.

She told the University of Brighton podcast: “You cannot wait for drugs to be custom-made because that’ll take too long. The more I learn about drugs, the more I realise there is no magic bullet. There is a sceptical approach that we use towards a therapeutic target.

“My argument is that we have drugs from the prior decade where we have a full characterisation of their intended effects, but also their unintended effects. We understand the mechanisms. They’re not licensed for this treatment, but maybe we could redeploy them to solve some of the problems now (with coronavirus).”

Mrs Barrett is optimistic there will be a solution: “I think we will find something, whether that’s drugs or a vaccine. That’s my personal opinion. That’s not caveated by any science. We’re going to try combinations and permutations of drug therapies from a different variety of fields. We’re going to try in small batches of people across the world and we’re going to report clinicians’ successes. Those types of things will get published quite quickly.”

Once a solution is found, Mrs Barrett is wary there may be issues with distribution: “I think there will be a huge moneymaking opportunity here. That’s going to raise political, economic, geospatial tensions over pricing, over revenue, over contracts.

“I think one of the most fundamental things that we should do as the UK economy is to think about manufacturing our own drugs on our home country, on our own soil, so that we don’t have these problems of transport. We’re not waiting on somebody else so that we can manufacture.”

Listen to the full University of Brighton podcast and catch-up on previous episodes

Stephanie Thomson • May 19, 2020

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