COVID-19 treatments exemplify the significance of the public-private sector R&D continuum. While these treatments have not generally received the same level of attention as vaccines, they are critical to our response to the pandemic. This panel discussion explores the range of treatments available; how, when, and in what settings they are administered; and ways to ensure these treatments reach patients in need.
A panel of experts provided a broad overview of the COVID-19 treatments landscape, discussing how treatments have evolved, treatment access, and outlining solutions to health equity concerns. Thanks to research and resource sharing, 3 dominant categories of treatment are now viewed as standard care for COVID-19 at varying phases of infection: antivirals, anti-inflammatories, and anticoagulants. It is important to note that at the onset of the pandemic there were no viable treatments and very little was known about the varying clinical presentation of the disease. Physician-scientists played a critical role in demystifying the symptomology of COVID and also tracking the efficacy of relevant adjuvant therapies that could mitigate severe infection and death. Once more treatments became available, a major obstacle was adequately communicating health messages on when to seek treatment at a hospital and how to continue practicing prevention strategies. Health care systems rely heavily on communications experts to craft news and social media messaging that was culturally relevant.
Americans rely on pulpits they trust lending to the need for scientists to honestly and consistently communicate the science behind treatments. Also being transparent about the research process will reduce confusion surrounding when treatments are most effective. For example, convalescent plasma was lauded as an effective treatment for mild to moderate cases of COVID infection. However, recent data suggests it is more judicious to integrate this treatment in hospitalized patients. Continued research is key to properly utilize current treatments and discover new ones, especially given the growing number of individuals suffering from post-acute sequelae to SARS-COV-2 infection (or “long covid”).
- Eleanor Perfetto, PhD, MS, executive vice president of strategic initiatives, National Health Council
- Rajesh T. Gandhi, MD, FIDSA, professor of medicine, Harvard Medical School; director of HIV clinical services and education, Massachusetts General Hospital; Chair, HIV medicine association; member, guideline panel, treatment and management of patients with COVID-19, Infectious Diseases Society of America
- James L. Madara, MD, CEO and EVP, American Medical Association
- Denise Brooks-Williams, senior vice president and CEO north market, Henry Ford Health System
- Michael Ybarra, MD, vice president and chief of medical affairs, PhRMA