Existing medication sought in coronavirus treatment

A French lab discovered a contender in the race to find a treatment that will stop COVID-19 from spreading

Researchers are turning to existing medication for potential use in a new coronavirus treatment.

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A study published by French biomedical lab IHU-Méditerranée Infection on Wednesday discovered a potential COVID-19 treatment contender: a combination of hydroxychloroquine, which has been used to treat malaria, and azithromycin.

The two drugs combined would prevent the virus from entering other human cells and therefore stop the virus from spreading.

"There was massive, massive news overnight on this French study,"  Dr. Mehmet Oz told "FOX & Friends" on Friday, adding: "They gave [out] two already-existing medications. These medications were remarkably effective in reducing the viral load in people who had COVID-19."

A researcher at Protein Sciences moves a vial in a lab, Thursday, March 12, 2020, in Meriden, Conn. (AP Photo/Jessica Hill)

"This is the first time I've seen news that makes me think, 'Oh my goodness, we don't have to wait for a vaccine.' We've had ... ideas, but these guys actually published data from a respected institution," Oz said later.

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Hydroxychloroquine and a similar drug called chloroquine, which President Trump mentioned during a Thursday press briefing, are available for off-label use by U.S. health care workers. Off-label use means health care workers can use medications approved by the FDA for other reasons besides their original purposes.

"By six days, the people who were given the two drugs had none of the virus remaining, and [over] the whole course of treatment, they had no virus, which means we could actually make this look more like the flu," Oz said.

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A number of other drugs, such as lopinavir and ritonavir, which are normally used for HIV treatment, have been tested but proven ineffective, according to a New York Times report from Wednesday.

In this Sunday, Feb. 16, 2020, photo, medical workers provide treatment to a new coronavirus patient at a hospital in Wuhan in central China's Hubei province. (Chinatopix via AP)

Oz explained that there is still a long way to go, but the French study is the most promising sign of development in the effort to find a treatment for COVID-19.

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"We're giving science a chance to win. This study from Marseille, and additional ones that will be coming out over the next few days or weeks, are going to drastically change our perspective on how to treat this," Oz said.

The Food and Drug Administration has not yet approved a COVID-19 treatment.

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