Is This 55-Year Old Antiviral Drug the Cure For Covid-19?

Disclaimer: The opinions, beliefs and viewpoints expressed in the following article does not necessarily reflect the opinions, beliefs and viewpoints of the Addiction/Recovery eBulletin or official policies of the Addiction/Recovery eBulletin.

In October 1966, Stine Labs, a division of Du Pont pharmaceuticals, developed and released the drug Symmetrel (Amantadine). It had proven to be effective prevention against Influenza A. Shortly thereafter, in 1968/9 the Hong Kong flu reached pandemic proportions and doctor’s testing this drug found that not only did it prevent the potent flu virus, it worked for treatment too.  In the late sixties and early seventies, more and more evidence was mounting that we had an effective antiviral to prevent and treat flu.  Ten years later, in October 1976, the FDA gave Du Pont permission to advertise Symmetrel for both prevention and treatment of Influenza A. It so happens that all the major flu epidemics and pandemics of the 20th century were type A, so we had a very powerful weapon against this viral disease.  The drug works by preventing the un-coating and release of viral RNA in the host cells, thereby stopping the spread of the virus within 24 hours. The COVID-19 novel Coronavirus is an RNA virus, so logic would dictate that this drug would also be effective again the current pandemic.

When Du Pont released this drug, which now goes by its generic name, amantadine, there were over forty molecular analogs such as rimantadine (generic of Flumadine) and spiromantadine which were shown in the 1980’s to have some effect against the coronavirus.  If you look back to March of this year when the virus was spreading from Wuhan to Washington state and down to California, not one virologist or epidemiologist spoke of antiviral medications, let alone a whole family of drugs which could have been developed to combat Covid-19 when it was in its early stages. 

Another benefit of amantadine is that it enhances peripheral airway function at the alveolar level, which means that breathing is improved while the patient is on this drug.

Covid-19 affects the lungs, yet no one made the connection that amantadine would offer some degree of protection against the major pulmonary complications we have witnessed in hospitalized patients.  In fact, if amantadine were given to patients who tested positive for Covid-19, they probably would not have needed to be hospitalized. 

The antiviral Remdesivir can only be given to hospitalized patients, must be given intravenously and can cost $1,000-$2,000/day.  Amantadine costs under a dollar a pill. For $20-$30 a month, the spread of Covid-19 could have been prevented people in high-risk settings such as nursing homes, prisons, urgent care facilities, sober livings, ER’s etc., at least to the degree (50-60%) that vaccines are projected to prevent.

The three current viruses, which are RNA based for their replication, are: influenza A, Covid-19, and SARS Covid-2. I have had different patients with all three who responded promptly to amantadine.  The entire coronavirus task force ignored these antiviral drugs.  The company that manufactured amantadine, for some unknown reason has shown no interest in developing any of its analogs.  This has dealt a major blow to the health and economy of this and other countries that could have been prevented by prompt use of the amantadine class of drugs both prevention and treatment.

Another benefit of amantadine is its dopamine boosting effect. Dopamine is one of the three neurotransmitters and that helps to a limited degree in the treatment of Parkinson’s disease.  For this reason, it was also used in the 1970’s and 1980’s in addiction treatment centers.  Now we have specific drugs to target each of the three neurotransmitters.

 In conclusion, we have a readily available drug that has four benefits:

1.     Prevents the reproduction and release of RNA viruses.

2.     Prevents and treats influenza and the coronavirus family of viruses.

3.     Boosts dopamine in the brain.

4.     Enhances airway function. 

Recently articles have been appearing in medical and scientific journals questioning why we are not using amantadine in treating this pandemic. I only wish Drs. Fauci, Birx, Redfield and Adams had disseminated this information back in March, and this medication had been made widely available months ago.  The spread could have been prevented if we had started in February/March of this year the virus was recognized as a pandemic; thousands of lives could have been saved.

Arnold Chanin MD
General Medicine and Family Practice

Disclaimer: The opinions, beliefs and viewpoints expressed in the following article does not necessarily reflect the opinions, beliefs and viewpoints of the Addiction/Recovery eBulletin or official policies of the Addiction/Recovery eBulletin.


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