COVID-19 Pandemic Now Delaying Work On Other Life-Saving Drugs

Scientists across the world have been trying to speed up work on a treatment and vaccine for COVID-19. However, biotechnology and pharmaceutical companies have been slowing down progress in making life-saving medications against other diseases because of the coronavirus pandemic. 

Bristol Myers Squibb, Pfizer and other companies previously announced plans to postpone new clinical trials and studies in response to the spread of the novel coronavirus. Eli Lilly said in March that it expects delays in the development of the experimental gastrointestinal disease treatment, mirikizumab, Reuters reported

Experts said the full impact of the delayed clinical trials may remain unknown for months. That is because of the increased focus of the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) and other companies on finding a way to eliminate or control COVID-19. 

FDA said in May that many of its staff members were tasked to help combat the coronavirus. The agency also admitted that it will not be able to sustain its performance level in meeting goal dates indefinitely.

"We are working around the clock to monitor and mitigate emerging coronavirus-related issues with our federal partners, international regulators, and medical product developers and manufacturers to advance response efforts to combat the coronavirus disease (COVID-19) outbreak," an FDA spokesperson told CNBC

The agency has launched a website for pharmaceutical companies to provide or obtain information about clinical trials amid the coronavirus pandemic.

"Our application review teams remain focused on their work, and we are doing everything possible to maintain continuity of operations in a very dynamic situation and will continue to be flexible and as transparent as possible," the spokesperson said.

The agency is expected to face more challenges once companies resume halted trials. Former FDA Commissioner Scott Gottlieb said current delays might cause a "burst of activity" in the future since they would need approvals from the federal government to continue work and market the products. 

FDA commonly takes up to a year to determine the drug's safety and effectiveness. The increased focus on finding COVID-19 treatments and vaccines may make the process longer. 

Latest data shows the disease has already affected more than 9.1 million people around the world. The U.S. remains on top of the most affected countries, with 2.38 million confirmed infections and over 122,000 related deaths.

Coronavirus COVID-19 Laboratory Test, Cure, Vaccine Extracting genetic material of the virus in Belo Horizonte, Brazil. Pedro Vilela/Getty Images