The Briefing provides an at-a-glance view of some important developments in the information universe surrounding COVID-19. The views presented here are solely those of ECRI Horizon Scanning and have not been vetted by other stakeholders.

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After watching the COVID-19 pandemic for the past 2 years, scientists now have a better understanding of how the virus evolves. Even so, the characteristics of an endemic SARS-CoV-2 virus are still emerging. Evolutionary pathways could lead to simply another version of the common cold, or they could lead to a more pernicious, flu-like virus that causes grave illness and would require periodic adjustments to vaccines.

Presently, however, things are looking good for the future of current vaccines and their ability to protect against the spreading Omicron variant if a booster dose is also received. Additionally, the state of mRNA technology is such that both Pfizer and Moderna will be able to produce an Omicron-targeted vaccine if needed.

Despite good news on their protection against Omicron and a recent study showing the comparative safety and immunogenicity of different booster vaccines, new COVID-19 cases in the United States are back up to 100 000 per day. These patients need new treatments and new delivery models now (see Topics to Watch), and treatment options will continue to be vitally important as the virus becomes endemic and  breakthrough cases inevitably occur.

Bucillamine to Treat Mild to Moderate COVID-19

At a Glance

  • Bucillamine is an oral anti-inflammatory drug under investigation to treat adults with symptomatic mild to moderate COVID-19 in the outpatient setting.
  • Bucillamine is a cysteine derivative that  has the potential to mitigate the effects of proinflammatory reactive oxygen species and prevent acute lung injury during respiratory infections.
  • Laboratory research also suggests that bucillamine might inhibit SARS-CoV-2 virus infection by blocking the SARS-CoV-2 spike protein from binding to its receptor and entering cells.
  • The developer is evaluating bucillamine’s effectiveness at preventing hospitalization and death in a phase 3 trial of 1000 patients with mild to moderate COVID-19 under home quarantine with trial completion expected in late November 2021.

Direct-to-consumer Telehealth Platforms to Provide Oral Antiviral Treatment for COVID-19 at Home

At a Glance

  • Digital care platforms have combined telehealth consultation, at-home testing, and virtual pharmacy services for consumers to reduce transmission, complications, and deaths due to COVID-19.
  • These companies intend to improve the delivery of antiviral pills within 5 days of symptom onset when these medications are most effective.
  • Following a visit with a virtual provider and a confirmed positive COVID-19 test result, these platforms allow patients to receive a prescription for antiviral therapy delivered to them for their mild-to-moderate COVID-19.
  • The cost for virtual visits and prescription medications would largely depend on the individual’s insurance coverage. 

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Commentary in this COVID-19 Scan reflects preliminary views of ECRI Horizon Scanning and internal ECRI stakeholders.
The information contained in this document has not been vetted by other stakeholders.

We welcome your comments on this Scan. Send them by email to [email protected].

Posted: December 21, 2021

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