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Is it possible that pre-existing drugs and vaccines used for other diseases might successfully treat or prevent COVID-19? A surprising group of well-known medicines may be repurposed to battle COVID in the months and years to come. 

Some of these drugs come with strong doubt from scientists, plus fears of causing more harm than good. Read on to learn which three drugs are at the forefront of this research, in spite of conflicting results. 

3. A Promising TB Vaccine?

Vaccine

A vaccine developed long ago for tuberculosis (TB) shows some promise for treating COVID-19. Bacille Calmette-Guérin (BCG) was first developed in 1921 by French scientists Albert Calmette and Camille Guerin. As BCG was used over the years for tuberculosis prevention, more benefits for other unrelated (“off-target”) health conditions began to emerge, including immune system support.

A 2020 study published on ScienceDirect stated that “BCG’s effects on innate immunity suggest it might improve the immune response against viral respiratory infections, including SARS-CoV-2.”

The BCG vaccine widely used for tuberculosis has also shown promise in healing respiratory infections, but can’t be counted on yet for lung disease prevention. And though the BCG vaccine has shown positive results in reducing some COVID symptoms, the World Health Organization (WHO) is wary of its effectiveness. At this time, WHO claims the evidence isn’t strong enough to say the BCG vaccine is adequate as treatment or prevention of COVID-19. 

2. Thalidomide’s Horrific Past and Questionable Future

Thalidomide

The drug thalidomide may help decrease inflammation linked to COVID-19; in particular, the troubling cytokine storms caused by the immune response in severe COVID cases. However, scientists are skeptical and cautious when using this drug due to its horrible past. 

Just the mention of thalidomide might send cold shivers down the spines of people familiar with its use as a morning sickness treatment for pregnant women back in the 1950s and 60s. Thalidomide caused devastating birth defects, including missing limbs, in babies born of these patients. 

Though it was banned as a treatment for pregnant women long ago, thalidomide has been successfully used for treating erythema nodosum leprosum (a leprosy complication) and a blood cancer called multiple myeloma. Because of its benefits with these and other health conditions, doctors and scientists have seen how thalidomide acts to reduce inflammation. 

A recent study of patients with a “disabling” cough caused by idiopathic pulmonary fibrosis (IPF) showed significant improvement from treatment with thalidomide. If this drug helped improve respiratory health in patients with IPF, scientists wonder if it could do the same for sufferers of COVID-19. 

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