Over the previous few weeks researchers have been discreetly finding out a brand new potential remedy for COVID-19 and it may not be what you anticipate.
The remedy in query known as famotidine, and it is the lively ingredient in Pepcid, an over-the-counter treatment generally used to alleviate heartburn.
Since March 13, researchers at Northwell Well being, a community of hospitals in New York, have been enrolling sufferers hospitalized with COVID-19 into their examine of famotidine, which is being delivered via an IV in megadoses nine occasions higher than the everyday over-the-counter dose. The drug is being given together with the a lot-touted antimalarial hydroxychloroquine.
Researchers stated some information on security might be accessible “in just a few weeks,” however didn’t say when knowledge shall be accessible exhibiting whether or not the drug mixture is efficient.
Dr. Kevin Tracey, CEO and president of the Feinstein Institute for Medical Analysis at Northwell Well being, says the research was being carried out beneath the radar to keep away from media consideration in addition to a possible depletion of nationwide provide, limiting Northwell’s entry to the drug.
Greater than 180 sufferers have enrolled within the Northwell examine up to now. They have been given both a two-drug mixture of hydroxychloroquine and famotidine, or hydroxychloroquine alone. In line with Tracey, hydroxychloroquine was added into the combo due to the drug’s promise again in mid-March — earlier than information emerged about its potential risks.
Tracey mentioned the concept to attempt famotidine got here from a pal and colleague, Dr. Michael Callahan, who had just lately visited China and was working with Chinese language physicians on a nonetheless-unpublished examine reportedly displaying that the drug benefited sufferers with COVID-19.
The advantage of attempting famotidine was supported by extra analysis, a part of a personal-public partnership with the federal authorities, that used the genetic make-up of the virus to pinpoint doubtlessly promising medicine, Tracey mentioned.
The hope is that famotidine will act as a decoy for the virus, in order that whereas the virus is preoccupied with famotidine, it’s unable to breed itself and unfold all through the physique.
Dr. Stuart Ray, professor of medication in infectious ailments and vice chair of drugs for information integrity and analytics at Johns Hopkins, stated he was shocked to listen to that researchers at Northwell are finding out famotidine in folks with COVID-19, and that he’s skeptical about preliminary knowledge from China as a result of it has not been vetted within the typical overview course of.
Nevertheless, he stated he’s glad there’s some scientific rationale behind the drug. He provides that regardless of the megadoses, the drug is more likely to be secure.
“I believe this type of off-label repurposing is smart with medicine for which we’ve got a protracted security file,” mentioned Ray. “And we actually want a win.”
As of Sunday, the examine was not but listed within the national online database of medical research maintained by the Nationwide Institutes of Well being for the good thing about each the general public and health care professionals.
Dr. Carlos Del Rio, chair of the Hubert Division of World Well being at Emory College’s Rollins Faculty of Public Well being, is suspicious of this delay in posting particulars in regards to the trial, noting that researchers ought to publicly announce their intention to run a examine like this earlier than they begin enrolling sufferers.
“Science must be open, not secretive,” he stated. “We would like transparency in scientific trials.”
Del Rio added that relating to the promise of famotidine, “we now have to stay skeptical.”
“Within the early years of HIV, we tried lots of stuff and we thought, ‘Oh that is going to work’ and nothing labored,” he mentioned. “When you’ve a illness for which there isn’t any therapy, all types of various issues are tried and everybody is worked up about them.”
Tracey, in the meantime, cautioned individuals to keep away from making an attempt out unproven remedies themselves.
“What we would like all people to do is ship us our greatest needs that if it really works, we are able to discover out shortly,” he mentioned.
Heather J. Kagan, M.D., is an inside medication resident at The Johns Hopkins Hospital and is a contributor to the ABC Information Medical Unit. Sony Salzman is the unit’s coordinating producer.