Scientists say the best treatment for COVID-19 may be a cocktail of medicines

More than a dozen drug firms in Massachusetts are urgently searching for a medicine to treat COVID-19, but the most potent therapy may not end up being a single medication. Instead, medical experts say, the most effective way to battle the disease will likely be a combination of drugs taken together.

Two weeks after the federal government allowed hospitalized coronavirus patients to receive an experimental drug that provided only modest benefits, scientists say it increasingly appears the best treatment will be a cocktail of medicines similar to those used for other deadly infectious diseases, from tuberculosis to AIDS.

The need to develop drugs that can dramatically lessen symptoms of COVID-19 is especially crucial because a vaccine that could prevent the disease likely remains a year or more away.

Dr. Barry Bloom, a professor at the Harvard T.H. Chan School of Public Health, said he’s optimistic that one or more medicines better than remdesivir — the experimental Gilead Sciences drug cleared for “emergency use” on May 1 ― will be available by the year’s end. But he expects the standard of care will probably evolve and ultimately rely on a combination of drugs that pass muster in clinical trials.

“You don’t need only one drug,” said Bloom, a pioneer in global health who devoted much of his career to treating tuberculosis. “What we learned with HIV is that no one drug works very well. But if you put three drugs together that are pretty good drugs, you can control the virus for life.”

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