Image of Francis S. Collins, M.D., Ph.D.

A large clinical trial is set to study the potential for repurposed, over-the-counter drugs to treat mild-to-moderate COVID-19 symptoms. If found effective, approval for use likely will be given quickly, according to the National Institutes of Health.

“While we’re doing a good job with treating hospitalized patients with severe disease, we don’t currently have an approved medication that can be self-administered to ease symptoms of people suffering from mild disease at home, and reduce the chance of their needing hospitalization,” said NIH Director Francis S. Collins, M.D., Ph.D., in a Monday announcement.

The ACTIV-6 trial will study up to seven drugs approved by the Food and Drug Administration for other conditions. The list is not yet complete, but all of the drugs will have established safety records. Many already have been the subject of smaller trials of effectiveness against COVID-19, the agency said, and all will be easy to take at home, administered orally or by inhaler. 

The upcoming study will focus on participants from communities that are significantly affected by COVID-19 but can’t easily participate in large clinical trials at academic medical centers, the NIH stated.

ACTIV-6 is funded as part of a public-private partnership called Accelerating COVID‑19 Therapeutic Interventions and Vaccines. The program aims to find accessible treatments for the majority of COVID-19 patients, who do not develop severe disease, according to the NIH.