Evaluating Amantadine as a Potential Treatment for COVID-19

Amantadine, a treatment that was originally used as an agent against influenza A, lost efficacy due to viral resistance.

The coronavirus disease 2019 (COVID-19) pandemic has turned our lives upside down and caused unspeakable loss around the world. We now have vaccines for the virus; however, it may take months before most of the population will be vaccinated.

Unfortunately, the virus continues to surge and people urgently need treatment. Health care providers are doing their best, as patients are usually treated symptomatically based on current protocols. The medical community has used different types of medications, ranging from antivirals to vitamins and minerals.

The solution might be in repurposing a drug that has been in use for years—amantadine—a treatment that was originally used as an agent against influenza A. However, it lost efficacy due to viral resistance.

Coincidentally, doctors found that it can help in the treatment of Parkinson disease. The prescribing of amantadine for this condition recently led researchers to an interesting discovery.

Polish doctors Konrad Rejdak and Pawel Grieb observed that 22 patients who had been taking amantadine or memantine for multiple sclerosis, Parkinson disease, or cognitive impairment did not have any clinical manifestations of COVID-19 after testing positive for severe acute respiratory syndrome coronavirus 2 (SARS-CoV-2). During this same time, another practicing Polish physician was using amantadine off-label to treat patients with COVID-19.

Dr. Wlodzimierz Bodnar, a pediatrician and pulmonologist, became sick with the virus and self-treated with amantadine. His symptoms began to subside within 48 hours of taking the medication.

After recovering, Bodnar used his personal and clinical experience to develop a protocol to use with patients. He has treated hundreds of patients since March 2020, many of whom have posted their testimonies and stories of gratitude online, where they thanked Dr. Bodnar for helping them during their illness. He has also published his guidelines with dosing recommendations online, emphasizing that patients should only take amantadine as directed by a health care professional.

Bodnar has spent months advocating to establish the drug as a standard of care for the virus; however, for that to happen, clinical trials are needed. It was recently announced that a clinical trial is set to begin in February 2021.

Rejdak, the physician who saw the correlation between adamantanes and lack of COVID symptoms, will lead this trial. Two hundred patients will be recruited form numerous hospitals across Poland, including the Independent Public Clinical Hospital No. 4 in Lublin. According to Rejdak, the outcomes may be observed in as little as 2 weeks and if the results are favorable, the trial will expand to include more people.

While we eagerly wait for the results, it is interesting to note that some case studies have been reported in literature around the globe.

An observational study from Mexico followed 15 patients with clinical symptoms of COVID-19. All patients were prescribed amantadine, and most also took several other medications. None of them required hospitalization or mechanical ventilation. After 14 days of treatment, all patients had IgG antibodies against SARS-CoV-2.

During this difficult time, we need to consider multiple ways to attack this pandemic. While distributing vaccines, we also need to continue looking for treatments because a safe and effective drug is needed in this very moment. Thousands of people die daily from this devastating illness and others have less access to health care services since hospitals are overwhelmed.

A therapy would relieve the health care heroes that fight for patients on the front lines. If the new trial proves that amantadine is effective for COVID-19, it will bring hope and help to people around the world.